Once diagnosed with a food allergy, you have to roll up your sleeves and learn to live with the challenges of daily groceries and meals. Mélanie Simard shares her tips.
When I saw my little cutie's face swell disproportionately and her little body covered in hives, I quickly realized that she was having an allergic reaction. She was only 4 and a half months old. My husband and I had decided to start weaning from breastfeeding at the rate of one bottle a day for a week. At that time, I had no idea how much our lives would change because of food allergies. Here is a true story and my personal advice that may help you in this new adventure of living with food allergies.
The allergist informs us that our little Flavie is allergic to bovine proteins as well as to eggs. Since I am still breastfeeding, I am told that I must follow the same diet as her in order to avoid another allergic reaction. Our doctor prescribed us a special formula that did not contain any bovine protein. But beware, here begins the real challenge. You have to learn toread labels at the supermarket. No matter what food allergy you have, you should know that not all manufacturers use the same terms for the foods they use in the production of the foods you buy. You must therefore know the terms used in order to unmask the allergens that you must avoid. You will find various lists of them on the Internet, among others on the AQAA website (Quebec Food Allergy Association).
The first grocery store
I would be lying to you if I told you it wasn't so bad. My husband and I are people who like all kinds of cuisines. We have always loved to explore. Also, I have always had a sweet tooth and used to buy the pastries I wanted every week. No more carelessness! To my dismay, at the time, I quickly realized that it was impossible for us to buy pre-made desserts. Even baby cereal without beef protein was hard to find.
You have to know where to look and when you're new to all this, it's not always easy. We came back from this first grocery store very discouraged and especially with a feeling of being completely disorganized. We no longer knew how to compose a simple meal. So we sat down, for the first time, to make a grocery list.
We had to think of ways to adapt our recipes. We started with simple recipes. The saucespaghetti should not contain ground beef. So we replaced it with ground pork. We eliminated pizza from our menu for a period of time (mainly because of the cheese). No more eating tortellini with rosée sauce either. So, we ate more chicken, pork, we tried recipes with tofu and we ended up having fun varying our meals even more. The butter on the vegetables has been replaced by olive oil. So off we went, with our list of foods to avoid when stocking up.
And the others…
For a while, depending on the type of allergies that concern us and the complexity of managing them, we tend to isolate ourselves. We need some time to adapt to this new reality. And then you will manage to find a sense of competence. You learn fast when you have no choice.
Now you have to face the real world. Now that you have become, by necessity, the expert with the allergies that concern you, you will have to educate those around you. If your child has food allergies, as we do, you will need to tell everyone you know not to offer your child food. Arm yourself with patience. Some people don't seem to want to understand, you'll see. You'll have to repeat the same song everywhere you go for years to come. It seems that some people cannot conceive that a food could kill your child. At first people will think youexaggerate, that you are overprotecting your child. But by dint of informing them, the majority will eventually understand and you will feel supported.
The Big World
When the child starts school and goes out without you, you will need to take steps to ensure his safety in your absence. Your child will need to wear their adrenaline auto-injector as soon as they are mature enough to do so. I won't go into detail on these topics because it would be another full article, but I will tell you this: "NEVER let your child go anywhere without making sure that the person who will be responsible for them knows about allergies, knows how to use the adrenaline auto-injector and what to do in case of an allergic reaction. »
The good stuff
I wanted to end by telling you what is good about food allergies because in every situation that life throws at us, there is always something good. People who live with food allergies are said to eat better than the average person. Why? Because we are becoming experts in reading labels. We are more aware than the average person of what we put in our mouths. Also, we often cook the majority of what we eat.
The good thing is that by looking for safe foods, we often end up making great discoveries. I would be lying to you if I didn't tell you that food allergiescan bring some stress in the family, but as in any difficult situation, we learn to manage and it often gives way to great proofs of love, you will see.
My daughter's beef protein and egg allergies went away over time, but when she was three years old, she had another allergic reaction. Once again, I was afraid of losing my little treasure. The allergist confirms to us, this time, that she is allergic to nuts and peanuts. Here I am again, now for four years, an expert by force of circumstance, like several thousand Quebecers. Know that you are far from alone and that there are many solutions to food allergies.
Here are some references that will be more than useful to you:
- Quebec Food Allergy Association
- Outsmart food allergies (this highly informative site will keep you up to date on hot topics that concern us)
- A cooking enthusiast who has an allergic child built this very interesting blog