Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free. Feeling overwhelmed with food allergies? Wondering what you can eat and where you can go? There is hope, my friend!
My 16 year old son had been complaining of recurrent acid reflux for several weeks. He had endured a summer where more of his favorite foods – good foods – were making him ill. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and cherries were all making his throat itch. I knew it was time to revisit our doctor and do more allergy testing.
I cringed as our doctor detailed the test results. Dairy, nuts, sesame, eggs, soy, shellfish, and gluten. In an instant they all became kryptonite. We had already eliminated gluten from his diet, but the rest of this list just seemed so overwhelming. I asked myself the same questions many of you have asked at some point:
What will he eat?
How will I cook for him?
How will I keep weight on him?
What has happened to our food? To us?
I may be a blogger, but I am just like you. I’m dealing with some of the same struggles and challenges.
That day as we drove home from the doctor’s office, I looked at my son and acknowledged that this was a big blow…but it was one that we would conquer together…starting tomorrow.
Each time that a food issue has arisen in our home I have always been sure to allow for a brief time of acknowledging our raw feelings. Sadness, anger, and discouragement are very real emotions that we need to process as we deal with food allergies. I find that this is especially true with children. I give my children (and myself) their moment to process. While I allow this process to occur, I do not allow it to linger. Discouragement can quickly turn to bitterness.
So the next day, after both my son and I had a chance to vent and process and regroup, we had a meeting of the minds. Instead of focusing on the food that my son couldn’t have, we quickly turned our attention to what he could have. We went to the store and stocked up on safe snacks (thank you Enjoy Life Foods) and brainstormed some new lunch and dinner ideas. Having my son involved in the thinking, planning, and shopping process proved to be therapeutic and empowering for him. He saw that there were options…good options.
I’m telling you: if you have to deal with food allergies, this is a good time to do it. Seriously, there are new products filling the shelves of the grocery store literally every week. Cookbooks, blogs, groups, online shopping…we have so much at our disposal to make our allergy-ridden life somewhat easier and less stressful. Best of all? We have each other. I have found that the food allergy community is incredibly helpful and supportive of one another.
I’ve been dealing with varying degrees of food allergies with myself and children for the past 14 years. During that time I have refused to believe the lie that allergy friendly food is subpar food. To the contrary, I have found that allergy friendly food brings us back to a place where food is far more whole and true. It has pushed me to the perimeter of the grocery store where unprocessed food resides. Dealing with food allergies has made me think more about food, both what it can do for us and to us. Food allergies have caused me to find great joy in cooking and creating and overcoming obstacles. Dealing with food allergies has taught me so much…but it has taken time.
For some of you this food allergy journey is new. It’s scary and overwhelming. Today, I want to encourage you. You can do this! Here are some tips:
- Allow yourself time to process how you feel…but not too long (discouragement turns to bitterness with time)
- Find in person support groups or online groups on places like Facebook. Ask questions. Seek out suggestions. There are people who are willing to help and people who understand how you are feeling!
- Find a blog or two or three that suit your style and your dietary needs.
- Start simple. Don’t try to master gluten free, dairy free, egg free croissants right away. Find a good recipe for chocolate chip cookies or meatloaf that will get you by and give you hope. You’ll become more adventurous with time.
- Consult your doctor and/or a dietician to answer questions and offer suggestions.
- Attend an allergy expo in your area.
- Contact allergy friendly companies. Tell them your story. Ask for free samples or coupons. Many (not all) are very willing to help you.
If you live in the New York/New Jersey Metro area, I want to encourage you to attend the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo in Secaucus, New Jersey on Saturday, October 13, 2018 and Sunday, October 14, 2018. I attended this event last year as a regular ticket holder. I was fortunate enough to have won tickets through a sponsor’s giveaway. I took my three boys along with me. It was like allergy friendly trick-or- treating. We had so much fun collecting free samples to take home, trying new products on site, and discovering new companies and products. It was such an encouraging day for me.
The GFAF Expo event really pushed me into creating this blog. It made me realize that there are so many people out there trying to give people like me options. I wanted to do the same: give you options. While my blog is still in its infancy (under 1 year old), it has been a true blessing to hear from people who have been blessed by a simple recipe that they found at The Gluten Free Gathering. It reminds me that the food that I make for my family, may very well be something that your family may enjoy.
This year I am doubly excited to attend the GFAF Expo in Secaucus as an official blogger. I seriously can’t wait! As an Expo Blogger I have a special giveaway to offer you. I will be giving away 2 free tickets to the Secaucus, New Jersey Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo. There will be 2 winners selected (each will receive a special code to redeem online for 2 free tickets).
To enter, please (1) sign up to follow The Gluten Free Gathering and (2) leave a comment below telling me what your favorite recipe on The Gluten Free Gathering is. The deadline for entries is Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 11:59 PM (EST). Winners will be randomly selected from all eligible entries and contacted directly by no later than Monday, October 1, 2018. Winners will be emailed redemption codes to be used to claim your tickets.
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