Monday, August 29, 2011

from food allergies to health food... my thoughts

A few months ago, this is what happened to our son, who is allergic to dairy. This is after feeding him 3 Cheetos. 
Scary, right? 

When we first discovered his allergy, at 9 months old, I thought, "Oh great, we're gonna have to be one of those families who has to make sure our food is always safe and allergen free, and shop at the health food store, and put a lot more work into cooking at home." I was not excited at first, but my only choice was to embrace the situation. So I researched online, talked with people who had similar issues, and started cooking things that were safe to eat. Trips to the health food store resulted in purchases like soy milk, almond milk, tofu cheese, soy yogurt, sometimes even soy ice cream (even though that stuff is crazy expensive). We refrained from purchasing things like ah-hem, cheetos, cheese crackers, cheesy chips, etc. I fed him a lot of peanut butter, bread, fruit, veggies, and meat. In a lot of ways, we all started eating healthier, and I learned that I didn't mind having to work around his allergy. I started making homemade baby food. I started making almost everything we ate from scratch. And I was surprised at how many options there were in the stores, and how many things I could actually make at home. No longer was I using cream-of-this-and-that in casseroles. I haven't bought a jar of cheese whiz or pasta sauce or anything of the sort in a very long time. I now know how to make my own white sauces, cheese sauces, marinara sauces and gravies, and I personally think its just as easy, and tastier too.The blessings that have come from his allergy have far outweighed the sacrifices that have gone into it.

The doctor said there was a good chance he would grow out of his allergy to dairy. He said to experiment every 6 weeks. We started with cooked dairy. I was elated when we discovered he could in fact eat dairy if it had been cooked (my husband explained to me that when the proteins have been denatured, it has a different effect). All of a sudden, he could eat waffles, scrambled eggs, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas, grilled cheese, ya know, the regular kid stuff.

Fast forward a few weeks later, we experimented with real yogurt. Lo and behold, he did not react and break out in hives! We tried this a few times, then started adding other dairy items. We've been careful, because I think it still affects his stomach, which is evident in his diapers, but now he is able to eat ice cream, have regular milk in his cereal, and eat cold cheese. We're confident that he is growing out of his dairy allergy!

One of the main benefits of all this, is that it really opened my eyes and raised my awareness about the things that we actually put into our bodies. Like I mentioned, I cook from scratch pretty much all the time. We shop local when we can. We started our own garden. I want to purchase organic and natural food as much as possible. We've looked in to crop co-ops and purchasing meat from local farmers. I watched the movie Food, Inc. on Netlfix, and read this book. (and while I don't agree with every single thing they preach, at least I was educated on certain things).

 (We wanted real tomatoes, not just the idea of a tomato).

I've learned a lot, but still feel like there's a long way to go.
Someday we hope to be able to eat exclusively natural, local, hormone, and cage free meat, but until we can afford it, we save our money and buy what we can, even if its just a little at a time. 
I'd like to improve our food storage, adding healthy shelf items, and learning how to can the made-from-scratch sauces I talked about. 
My kids are the pickiest eaters I have ever met, and I need to work with them a lot

But I'm thankful that now I'm aware of things I want to do to improve our diet and health.
I do not think the food industry is evil. I think its a business, and its up to us to make smart choices.
I'm not talking about putting my family on a crazy diet that includes no junk-food. (I'm not willing to part with my sour cream and onion Pringles or dark chocolate Dove squares). But I do want to teach my children about making healthy food choices, and providing those opportunities to them.

How about you? Do you have special dietary needs in your home? 
What do you do to ensure safety and health?
How to you incorporate health food into your family's diet on a budget?
How do you get your picky kids to eat healthy?

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  1. I look up to you so much for the way that you feed your family! I think it is awesome! We don't have any allergies to force us into having to do it, but I would love it if my family and kids ate better! Blakelee is SO picky! If she could choose every meal it would be either hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pizza, or mac and cheese. So we definitely have a LONG way to go with helping her make healthy choices!!

  2. If he's having problems with digestion it could be lactose intolerance, as opposed to an allergy. I wasn't lactose intolerant until I was 25, but there are TONS of options out there. And, being that you've already cut out store cookies, crackers etc which often have hidden milk proteins, you're already winning the battle! Good Luck!

  3. so glad to hear his allergy is getting better! and great job!
    here is a trick we do with harper, he is hands down the pickiest eater ever, because of his texture sensitivities and his hesitation to change. (thank you autism), we make him try at least one new thing a day. At first it was a fight, but now he will do it willingly and his list of favorite foods has grown tenfold! What five year old asks for spinach and eggplant? He now isn't afraid to try new things, and if he can do it, ANY child can.
    another thing that helps is making their favorite foods healthier. He LOVES hot dogs, so gross. So we only buy turkey dogs with no nitrates or added anything and serve it with tons of fruits and veggies. He loves fries, so we make oven potatoes and cut them in the shape of fries. a couple years ago he would only eat chicken nuggets. so instead of buying the frozen ones at the supermarket, which are made of who-knows-what, I made my own healthy version and froze them.
    Another thing that helps, is talking to your kids about food. We have everyday foods, and sometimes food. He will ask me if it is a "sometimes" day, so we can get a kit kat! teaching them about the effects food has on our body is so incredibly important.
    I think the great thing about having a child with sensitivities to food, is it helps break you out of the mold, and helps you think outside the box. I love that.
    keep up the good work!!
    sorry for the novel :)

  4. Your doctor has warned you about anaphylactic reactions? These are sudden and deadly. If you don't already, please have an Epi-pen (prescription) available at all times for your precious little guy.
    Subscribe to the free e-mail alerts at
    The site is very informative - even recipes!

  5. I feel for you.My oldest son, now 15, was allergic to dairy when he was itty bitty. He's outgrown the allergy, but still doesn't care for cheese or milk so I have to make sure he gets his calcium in.Thank goodness for vitamins and calcium enriched orange juice. it does get better.

  6. That is so awesome that your son is able to eat all those foods now! How old is he now? My daughter is 21 months and also has a dairy allergy. Last summer, she had to be hospitalized for taking one bite of swiss cheese. She has a rather-high RAST score (40). How high was your son's when he was first diagnosed? I am so hopeful my daughter will outgrow this along with her other allergies. It's been a very trying year, but our diet has changed for the better too...
    If you get a chance, I'd love to hear back from you.
    Thanks! maryjowyse(at)

  7. I'm so glad he can eat some more dairy foods. Our son had svere food allergies to almost everything they tested for. They had never seen a child like him. He outgrew most of them except dairy, eggs and PB. He can have some cooked egg things, cookies, cake etc. But I guess you never know what you are missing if you never had it!

    He;s 18 now and said cheese stinks and would never eat it even if he could! lol!

  8. We have quite a few allergies in our family. They do get better as time go by, but I find you get new ones as well, so keep an eye out for that. I also find that goats milk is easier on the stomach and if you can get a really good one there is no difference in taste. We drink and cook with it. My nephew's allergy is corn. Which if we were from the USA would be a nightmare, nearly everything has some form of corn. We read all labels, it is a habit now. Remember children copy what you do, I remember Rhys picking up a packet in the supermarket and looking at the back before saying " What am I doing, I can't read" he was 4. We did not give our kids any snacks like Cheetos, when you read the ingredient why would you. We also did not give sweets or chocolates until age 5. The 1st time Rhys had fast food , he was 11. I made his fast food up until then. I made all his baby food from fresh. When he wanted sausages (age 6) I found Hebrew National. I never put sugar in his tea, not a conscious thought, I don't use it so never thought to. I also found a malted milk drink with no added sugar. Have you notice that anything healthy is SO much more expensive. Rhys is now 18, 6'2" 165lbs with great eating habits. He does eat chocolates and sweets, but no where near the amount I would. (My eating habits are disgraceful.) I am his aunt and I have always worked from home, for a mother who works out of the home to do what I did would be so hard. You will come across people who will criticize you and think you are trying to say your child is special when you tell them not to give them certain things, they are fools ignore them. Have lots of parties. I gave lots of birthday, Easter and Christmas parties, it's the only way I knew he could be just like ever other child grabbing and eating without me having to check what went into his mouth. An allergy attack cost roughly $400 each time, meds and doctor visits. Teach your son to cook it will make him more aware of what goes in his food. It is a lot of work I know, but when your grown healthy son stand before you in years to come, it is SO worth it. Good luck

  9. I am lactose intolerant, and so are 2 of my sons. Lactose is in the strangest of places. For example, Mikky D's uses it in their french fries as a preservative. It is also in the breading of the nuggets there and at KFC. (Not such a happy meal for the lactose intolerant.) It is in every non-natural orange beverage like orange soda. On the other hand, some solid cheeses don't have it at all (or at least don't cause a reaction for us).

    We find that we are able to drink raw milk because the enzyme is still present to digest the sugar since it hasn't been boiled out. Another option is to take the supplement Lactaid FastAct (comes in chewable form) with the 1st bite of anything suspect. It's simply the enzyme lactase which digests the milk sugar lactose.

    Best Wishes!
    (Hopped over from Keeping it Simple! Please come by if you get a chance:

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this. It was really good to read. You seem like such an amazing momma. It is always hard when our children have something that we can't do anything about. I am so happy for all you learned from this experience and for sharing so I can learn too as a mother. Thank you

  11. My little guy is also allergic to cow's milk (I am too), although he doesn't have as severe as a reaction as your little man. We recently switched to goat's milk and he is doing so much better.

  12. My son has a dairy allergy. We can't even buy certain brands of jelly beans at easter because it has milk in it. It is amazing what you find that has milk/dairy. He is almost three and we are just BARELY starting to be able to give him yogurt. People always make it out to be such a big burden, but really, when it's your daily routine it's just not that big of deal. It comes naturally to me now and he is even aware at almost 3 of what he can have and what "gives him bumbps". I think out of all food allergies it is definitely the most doable.

  13. I love reading about your learning, Rachel! Another book you might enjoy in this vein is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. She describes her year of feeding her family through their farm/garden and it's a joy to read. Keep up the great work with your family! You are an inspiration!

  14. Poor little guy! My youngest daughter has a ton of severe allergies. She breaks out in hives if she even touches milk, which is a big pain in this milk-and-cheese-loving family! But, like you, I've had to learn how to cook in new and healthier ways. And we've all benefited! I hope he outgrows it soon!


  15. Hi Rachel, glad to hear the allergy is probably growing out! I had a milk allergy when I was a baby, and had to be fed with almond and soy milk. Today I'm 30, and I've had a love-hate, on-off relationship with milk for all my life. I love it, but it doesn't always love me back! Couldn't have it as a baby at all, could not have it before long drives as a kid (I'd get motion sick), could have it as a teen and twen, and now have a newly developed lactose intolerance that I keep under control with lactase :-)
    I hope all goes well with your boy, just one tip: Dairy problems can manifest in other ways than digestion, and strangely so. For example, I have a diagnosed lactose intolerance and only recently found that eating dairy makes me incredibly dizzy and lightheaded. That was not the case in the years before. Taking allergy medication and taking lactase whenever I eat dairy helps a lot, but it took me 1.5 years to figure out the relation between the two, as it takes some hours for the dizzyness to set in after I ate dairy. So if you notice anything that is unusual about your son, even if the doctors say it is unrelated to dairy, test it. I'm sure you do that anyway, I just wanted to mention it ;-)

    Relatable Style

  16. I recognize everything you're describing! All three of my sons have dairy allergies, and it turns out that my husband and I do too. Each of us has different symptoms, ranging from rashes to stomachaches and more. That's great that your son is able to tolerate more milk products now ... so lucky! If you are looking for allergy-free recipes, you might want to check out my blog, Allergy Free Vintage Cookery at Best of luck with everything! ~ Lisa

  17. Both of my children had dairy allergies when they were younger. My youngest, now age 2 1/2, also had an egg allergy that he's outgrown. They were diagnosed early (like 3 months) and I was nursing them, so I had to be careful what I ate so my milk would be ok for them. Both of my children outgrew their allergies by age 2 so now they get to enjoy these products again!

  18. Our family has some serious dietary challenges and we have learned some pretty crazy things.

    1. You can have an anaphylactic reaction and positive allergy blood tests, but negative skin tests

    2. You can have negative blood and skin tests, but localized, gut damaging allergic reactions. This can lead to leaky gut, which leads to undigested proteins in the blood, which can lead to more allergies...

    3. You can get over or 'outgrow' some allergies, but some are simply desensitized and remain hidden. Please be careful with this! We believed our eldest daughter had outgrown her egg allergy. She hadn't. Her exposure to eggs, although not resulting in visible reactions, caused so much inflammation in her digestive tract that she stopped absorbing nutrients and eventually stopped growing. When we changed her diet, she grew 1 inch and gained 5 pounds - in a month. She had only gained 3 lbs the entire year before!

    4. And, I thought you may appreciate this one because of your son's reaction to Cheetos, my younger daughter had an allergic reaction to potato chips. The ingredients were potatoes, oil, and salt. Her only food allergy was dairy! It turns out that non-organic potatoes have been genetically modified to carry milk proteins. So, be careful with those French fries!

  19. AHHHHHH.. this happened to my son. he went into FULL anyphylaxis and to the ER not breathing. it was soooo scary. no mommy should have to see thier kid that way :(
    glad he is ok!!!
    lol you should check out our blog - i often have full parties planned for my kids that are diary free!!!! (i'm an event planner)
    all the best with your family's new diet!!!
    mindy from CREATIVE JUICE

  20. Healthy eating is about more than the food on your plate—it is also about how you think about food.Ask yourself if you are really hungry, or have a glass of water to see if you are thirsty instead of hungry. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. Order Bactroban It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.

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  22. I was surprised at how many options there were in the stores, and how many things I could actually make at home.gout in ankle


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♥Rach H