Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Kid Who Couldn't Eat (Practically) Anything, Part II

Recently I posted about my three-year old daughter, The Duchess, who is allergic to dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts and shellfish.  Upon hearing this, most people react by saying, "So what can she eat?" That's what I'll write about here.

Obviously, we avoid anything with eggs in it, even items that are baked (as a precaution).  Instead of milk, we drink soy milk (it has more protein and nutrients than rice or coconut milk, and isn't allergenic like nut milks.  And hemp milk just sounds gross).  And anything with nuts is out the window.  This can be tough because I like to use vegan recipes as a starting point, but a lot of them include nuts for protein.  But at least sunflower butter is a pretty good approximation.

We generally avoid anything that is something that normally would taste good, but is now gluten free.  For some reason, gluten free has become the trendiest diet around, and so there are a lot of products out there to cater to that, but baked products made without gluten have an often strange texture and usually don't taste very good. That's why they have so much sugar in them. 

Though I do buy some pancake mix, just for a change, and have gluten free waffles in the freezer, I generally avoid all breads (also, most of the gluten free breads and cakes make up for their lack of texture by adding eggs, which we can't have, even baked).  Lately, I've been using the single brand of gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free bread that I can find, which unfortunately is also rather taste-free, and then making the Duchess a sunflower butter and jam sandwich to bring to school. I look at the sad little allergy sandwich and hold back a tear.

On the bright side, there is my favorite product: Ancient Grains corn and quinoa pasta, which is actually pretty good.  But generally, for our carbs, we eat rice, potato, quinoa and even premade polenta.  The Duchess and Honey scarf down packets of oatmeal every morning (okay, it has a lot of sugar in it, we'll live).  And don't discount how much fun something can be wrapped up in a corn tortilla.

Secret weapons:
-Amy's soups.  Split Pea Soup and Lentil Vegetable are our tops. Both the Duchess and Honey scarf them down.  I have to limit them to a couple times per week; otherwise they would eat it every day.
-Sweet potatoes. Just nuke them and chunk them up for lunch. They are good for bringing out to eat because they are still good at room temperature.
-Packaged ham or turkey. Deli sliced meats may actually have milk protein in them, or have been sliced on a machine that may have had cheese cut on it.
-Whole Soy 100% soy yogurt.  This tastes like the real thing. The coconut yogurt did not go over so well in our house.
-Olive oil.  It makes for tasty mashed potatoes!
-Potato chips. Poor kid has to have some junk food once in a while.
-Legal Seafoods, PF Changs, and Chilis: All are so allergy-friendly, I love going there.  Seriously.
-Stuffed Vegetables: So zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms are boring.  But if you take the "guts" out and cook them up with some other items, then restuff it, it's super fun for a little kid. And we can always sprinkle a little Parmesan on top.

Yes, my grocery bills are excruciating.

Living with allergies:
Most parents fear their kid getting lost; I fear her getting lost and rescued by somebody who gives her milk and cookies as a treat.  At the hint of an EMT, who rushed us to the hospital after an accidental ingestion (I gave her rice cheese; did you know that it has milk protein in it? I do now.), I also got the Duchess her very own medi-alert bracelet, which is nice because I put my cellphone number on it along with her allergy warnings.

I also strongly believe in us taking control of the allergy.  I don't rely on other people to remember the Duchess's situation, so I have trained her to only eat "special" foods for her, to not eat food off the floor, and to always ask me or another grown up if something is okay for her to eat.  To this day, she will ask if something has "cow cheese" in it (her way of talking about all allergens).  At her school, even though they provide food for the kids (and by the looks of it, pretty tasty stuff), I pack a special lunch bag for her so that the teachers don't have to remember what she can have and can't have.  (She can have any fresh fruit there, but that's it). 

Strangely, the Duchess takes this all in stride. I would love to give her a great big slice of cake on her birthday, which is just around the corner, but she'll have the same little old allergy-free cookie that I give her for all special occasions.  This bothers me more than it seems to bother her; sometimes, other kids want to try her cookie instead of the cake, just because it is different, and, I guess, "special."


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