Guest Post by Jessica Smartt
My son Sam has food allergies. Every so often, I meet another mom who manages food allergies. It’s like I’ve found a soul mate.
We lock eyes and share a sympathetic smile: “You, too? Wow!” And we sort of fight the urge to hug each other.
We know what it’s like. We know how overwhelming it is at first, when you wonder, what in the world will he/she eat? We know the fear and stress that follow you to restaurants, play dates, and birthday parties.
It's not easy. I'm glad to see a growing public awareness for “grain” issues, such as wheat allergies, gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. While dealing with grain sensitivities is surely a challenge, there are growing resources for snacking, baking, and meal-planning.
But what happens when the allergen is something many consider to be “healthy”?
I know the benefits of butter, whole milk, nuts, and eggs. I wish I could feed them to my son Sam.
But I can’t. To Sam, these foods aren’t healthy or beneficial; they’re life-threatening.
So, what’s a mother to do?
For us, at first, it was survival mode. We scoured the edible landscapes for allergy-friendly products and found many foods he could eat. Hot dogs, deli-meat, rice milk, frozen chicken nuggets, margarine, jello, Oreo cookies, “butter-flavored” crackers – all were apparently safe for his allergies.
But, of course, we eventually realized: just because Sam can eat something, doesn’t mean he should.
It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve slowly come up with a diet that is not just safe for Sam, but also nourishing for our whole family.
I finally feel that my son's diet is not unfortunate or second-rate, but nourishing and healthy - a diet that anyone would benefit from.
Here are the staples of our dairy, egg, and nut-free pantry:
- Organic Coconut Oil. I use it for oven-roasting, stir-frying, baking, stirring in oatmeal, and more.
- Palm Oil Shortening. I use this healthy fat in place of butter or shortening for muffins, cookies, cakes, pie crusts, and cornbread.
- Coconut Milk. Almond and hemp are other good alternatives. We avoid soy because of health worries, and stopped using rice milk due to concerns of arsenic.
- Virgin Olive Oil
- Local, Grass-fed Beef. We get our meat from local farms. I believe quality meat from good farms is so important!
- Pasture-raised pork.
- Organic or local chicken
- Lots of Vegetables and Fruit
When I make dinner, these foods form the basis for one dinner for everyone. Because Sam’s allergies are severe, I stopped cooking with cheese and milk in our home. (That sound in the background is my husband sobbing.)
- White Lightning Chili with avocado
- Healthier Sloppy Joes with homemade French fries
- Pinto Bean and Cornbread Casserole
- Cobb Salad (Confession: Sometimes I top it with homemade French fries!)
- Southwest-topped Sweet Potatoes
- And for the perfect warm-weather meal: Grill out! Burgers, steaks or chicken with avocado, bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce, served with grilled vegetables and fruit skewers for dessert!
Of course, my kids love snacks. I view every snack as a chance to pack them with real-food nourishment. Here are a few of our favorite snacks:
- Rich and Nourishing Dairy-free Smoothie
- Banana Bread or Whole Wheat Apple Chunk Muffins
- Sunbutter Granola Bars
- Black Bean Hummus and carrots or crackers
- Banana with Sunbutter, Raisins, and Chocolate Chips
When I first discovered Sam's allergies, I felt so overwhelmed and lost. I never dreamed I'd be able to bake, saute, and simmer up such delicious foods without allergens! Here are a few things I've learned:
- Breakfast is the hardest meal! Everyday, my boys eat Berry Banana Oatmeal and all-natural turkey or pork sausage. Do I wish they were getting more protein? Maybe. But I feel it's the best we can do.
- Add calcium for those who eat dairy-free. Young children need 800-1000 mg per day. We do calcium-fortified orange juice or a dairy-free calcium supplement.
- Be liberal with fats. I pile on the olive oil and coconut oil on everything for my boys. I spread it on bread, drizzle it in a bowl of soup, spoon it in oatmeal, and add it to smoothies.
- Make your own substitutes. Store-bought cheese and butter substitutes aren't nearly as nourishing as the dairy-free substitutes you can make. I'm also interested to try making my own coconut butter, since coconut oil is so beneficial for your health.
- What if you have a picky eater? Perhaps I’m not the best to address this, because my boys come from a line of good eaters! But if dinner's not a hit, I usually have success offering a real-food dessert treat as a reward. The boys love coconut ice cream such as So Delicious brand (or make your own), apple crisp, or even a handful of chocolate chips and raisins.
- And if you need food advice, pray. I know that seems like a generic tidbit. However, I’m often amazed at how the Lord answers my simple prayers for wisdom on how to feed my boys. He made our children, after all!
Do you have food allergies in your family? What are some foods you rely on to keep your family nourished?
Top image by Lotzman Katzman
*Disclaimer: Some writers at Keeper of the Home have convictions about not eating pork and other Biblically "unclean" foods, while others include them as a regular part of their whole foods diet. We don't believe this is a firm rule or a moral position, and each family will have to decide whether to include these foods in their diet or not.
This post is sponsored by Plan To Eat. Plan To Eat was born from our desire to eat real food — great food — prepared at home, together as a family. Plan to Eat is an online menu planner that uses your recipes, scheduled for the days you want them, automatically generating your grocery list, organized the way you like to shop. Eat well. Eat together.