This is the third (and final) in a series of three posts on food allergies. You may wish to start at the beginning by reading All about food allergies, part one. Today’s post highlights many of the changes we made to our household and daily practices to keep Avery safe from her food allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts and soy.
Shopping for groceries is a lot more expensive these days, as you can imagine. The specialty foods, like rice milk, crackers and special meat we know is safe all add up to a lot more money than we used to spend on groceries. However, we don’t feel comfortable eating out with Avery so it almost washes out. Almost.
We also have to spend a lot more time reading food labels in the store, and then again when we get home. One system that has worked well for us is to use colored labels marked “safe” on all the food that we’ve checked and double-checked are safe for Avery. That way we don’t have to read the ingredient list every time we go to pull something out of the cupboard.
One of my biggest tips for preparing food for Avery is to always have some food cooked and cut and ready to go. I try to cook chicken breasts (or other meat), bake bread and steam vegetables on the weekends for the week ahead. I always make double portions of safe meals and freeze or refrigerate the extras for more meals. Also, we don’t have the luxury of grabbing food for Avery from a restaurant when we are out and about. It sure makes life easier to already have food ready in the refrigerator that I can just throw together for an outing.
Cross-contamination occurs when food proteins transfer from one food to another, this can happen from foods touching each other, machines, or people. We needed to learn about how to prepare food safely in our own home, but also how food is manufactured. For example, I learned that the deli meat we were feeding Avery before her food allergy diagnosis was likely contaminated with milk because the deli staff slice cheese and meats on the same machine. Also, many meats are infused with flavorings (which may include milk) and casein (a milk derivitive).
In our kitchen, we typically use paper plates to prepare Avery’s food. We wash hands before we touch any of her food or cups, and then wash hands again anytime we need to stop to cook food for Alex, or pour him a glass of regular milk, etc. I usually try to have all of Avery’s food prepped and ready to go before I even start on Alex’s food – that way I don’t risk cross-contaminating her food and I don’t have to wash my hands every few minutes.
Avery has her own set up sippy cups that are never to be used for cows milk, so that helps ensure the cups are safe. And our refrigerator is pretty much split down the middle – the right side is for food and drinks that are safe for Avery. The left side is for unsafe foods.
Soap and hot water is all that’s needed to clean up food protein that might remain on a surface. We are careful to wipe up our counters and sometimes use the Clorox cleaning wipes to make sure it’s really clean if we are worried.
The foods we really like
There are a number of packaged foods we’ve found enjoyable that are safe for Avery. We buy these foods from two places, Cub Foods in the natural/organic section, and the Fresh and Natural Food store. If you have a natural/organic food store near you, chances are pretty high they carry many of these brands.
Cherrybrook Kitchens – peanut/nut/dairy/egg-free dry cake mix for cakes and cupcakes, sugar cookie mix, chocolate chip mix, even a pancake mix. My kiddos and husband gobble these up. They also have a gluten-free line. Hooray for this brand for saving my butt when it comes to birthday treats. Seriously, I used to pick up birthday cakes from a bakery, not bake them myself. Baking from a box is at least easier than from scratch. And they are very yummy! The pancakes are awesome and I always get compliments whenever I make the cupcakes or cake!
Dreamfields Pasta – If you don’t have wheat allergies, chances are this pasta is safe for you! They use no egg and no milk, even in the lasagna noodles! Mitch and I have been eating this pasta for years, so we were really happy to see that it’s safe for Avery. It tastes just like regular pasta and is healthy, too. Most pasta companies make some of their variaties with egg in them (like lasagna noodles) and that means there’s a chance that the other non-egg noodles have been cross-contaminated. That’s a risk we can’t take. Dreamfields doesn’t use egg in any of their pastas. You can also find them on Facebook.
Applegate Farms – This meat company keeps few ingredients in their meats and has really good cleaning practices to ensure all the meat is safe, is cut on allergy-free equipment. I’ve actually called and spoken to reps at this company, in addition to scouring their web site, and I’ve been very impressed. We love the deli meat, cold cuts, chicken and apple Sunday sausage, and the meat/turkey/beef hot dogs.
Enjoy Life Foods – Every item this company produces is free of the top 8 food allergens, and is made on dedicated safe-equipment. If I see the Enjoy Life logo, I can breathe easily. This company makes a lot of different items, but our favorites are the chocolate chips and the chocolate candy bars. YUM.
Back to Nature crackers – The crackers from this company are relatively pure – not a lot of preservatives, and many have no milk or eggs, which is great for us. There are a number of crackers that Avery can eat, and they are delicious, too! Please note, this brand specializes in “natural” foods, not allergy-free foods, so please use caution and read the labels very carefully.
Earth Balance SOY FREE margarine – NEW This is the only soy and dairy-free spread on the market, and it’s delicious! Whole Foods carries it nationwide. The other stores near me don’t carry it yet, but I hope they will soon. It’s delicious and I’m so thrilled! You can read the press release here. This has made a big difference in our live, particularly with baking. Instead of using oils as a substitute for butter, I can use this spread. It is also yummy on toast, vegetables, and popcorn! We stopped buying “regular” spread, and our entire family uses this.
Sunbutter – In place of peanut butter, we use this at our house for the occasional sandwich for anyone other than Avery. Although Avery can tolerate all of the ingredients in Sunbutter, the label states that it is produced on equipment shared with soybeans. And since Avery is allergic to soybeans, we won’t feed it to her directly. But it’s a nice alternative to have in the house because it’s a lot safer for her than peanut butter if she were to come into contact with it somehow.
I was still breastfeeding Avery when we learned of her diagnosis and needed to immediately change my diet to match hers. This was a really big shift, as you can imagine. I consider it a great learning experience as I’ve been able to learn first hand what it’s like to strictly remove all of those foods from my diet.
Avery’s older brother Alex needed to be involved in the food allergy discussions, too. From the beginning, we told him that Avery had food allergies and that some food wasn’t safe for her. We have tried to continue to treat them equally as much as possible and not dote on Avery more because of this special need. We also recognize that Alex can play an important role in helping to keep his sister safe. For example, he needs to wash his hands and mouth after each meal, keep food in the kitchen, and immediately bring dishes to the sink. He enjoys reading children’s books about food allergies and asks me often if certain foods are safe for Avery or if she’s allergic to something.
Eating out at restaurants
I hope you found this series on food allergy awareness interesting and educational. Thank you for reading these posts and for your support of all individuals with food allergies.
You can find more of my food allergy posts, tips & recipes on my Food Allergy page. I’d also love to connect with you on my Marketing Mama facebook page and twitter. This post, and all posts on this blog, are written from my experiences as a parent of a child with food allergies. I am not a medical expert and encourage you to consult with a doctor on your personal medical situation.
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