All my life I never really gave much thought to the food I put in my mouth and I never seriously contemplated the consequences of what I ate. Like when I was 9 months pregnant and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter out of the jar, I never thought to myself “Gee, is this going to cause an allergic reaction consisting of skin rashes and loose stool?” That is…until I had a beautiful baby girl who suffered from food allergies.
Without getting into the graphic details of how we discovered these allergies (just imagine various colors and textures of poop, rashy skin, etc.), when I suspected there was a digestive issue, my pediatrician told me to avoid dairy and soy without even doing any testing, as those are the most common allergens for babies. Soon after, we discovered that wheat and nuts were also causing some pesky digestive issues. Since I was nursing, I had to eliminate those items out of my diet too. And poor hubs, well, he had no choice but to eat what we eat!
My first feelings on learning that I had to live without the common staples of dairy, wheat, soy and nuts in my diet were shock and sadness. I am ITALIAN and I lived on lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and PIZZAAA!!!! What would I do without those in my life? What on earth was I going to feed my family? Furthermore, I am a full-time working mother, I didn’t have the time to shop at my local farmer’s market everyday and cook from scratch!
After the panic wore off, I went into deep research mode. I looked into allergy friendly diets such as the Eat2Live, the GAPS diet, and the Paleo diet. All of those diets stressed the importance of fruits and vegetables as the main component to health and good nutrition. But I still needed my pasta and something to replace ice cream! After further research I discovered there are delicious options for the increasing number of people who live with food allergies. From there, I put together this Dairy Gluten Nut Free Guide of food substitutions for myself, and I have since shared it with numerous friends, family members, and other moms I have met who too have been struggling with the issue of food allergies/sensitivities.
If you are a working mom dealing with food allergies and need some help figuring out quick and easy meal plans, here are just a few tips:
- Breakfast – scrambled eggs, gluten free-toast (Udi’s brand or try the Paleo recipe for grain-free bread), fruit, and dairy-free fruit smoothies (these are great to make the night before).
- Lunch – ginormous salads with fruits, veggies, hummus, eggs, beans, meat or fish on top
- Dinner – rice, gluten-free pasta, soups (also can be made in large quantities the night before), some sort of protein, and lots of veggies!!! We buy our produce fresh or frozen by the bagfuls!
- Snacks – tortilla chips and dip, fruit, veggie sticks, rice crackers
Looking back it was easy to make this transition. My family was eating better, I felt like I had more energy, and most importantly, I started to lose some of the baby weight. However, the hardest part was that not everyone agreed with me or supported my dietary changes. I had friends who would look at me like I had ten heads for cutting the cheese (pardon the pun) out of my diet. But I was determined to set out on my own journey of learning how to feed my family when faced with certain dietary restrictions. Actually, I hate the word “restriction” because it denotes something negative or limiting. And that is not what living with food allergies is about. Rather, what I have found is liberation through the act of discovering new foods and breaking old habits, leading my family toward more healthful living. Do not get me wrong, we do not eat leaves, twigs, and berries all day long. I struggle with getting my daughter Mia to eat her veggies just as much as any mom. We still love to indulge on basic comfort foods like gluten-free chicken fingers and dairy-free mashed potatoes. And as I type this, my daughter is scarfing a gluten, dairy, soy, and nut free cupcake. And it’s delicious!