Yesterday I shared with you some of our struggle and determination as the parents of a child who has food allergies during Part 1 of this post. Today I hope to empower you and share with you some thoughts and concepts I use to help manage life with allergies!
My boy is still very little, so currently my husband and I are his primary advocates, and I am typically in control of what he puts in his mouth. As kids become more independent, more of the power shifts to them for managing their own intake and choices. Here are some tips I have found useful in managing my son’s allergies and things I am preparing for in the future:
I phrase our dietary needs clearly. When I begin to ask whether a dish is milk-free (or insert your particular allergen), I begin by saying “My child has a severe allergy to ________. We have an epi-pen with us. Could I ask you about a few dishes to see if they would be safe for him?” This alerts the server or host to the seriousness of our needs, and invites them to be a part of our team. You want the server or host on your team! This will be something I go on to teach my son as he grows up.
I check the label every time I buy. Products change. I check my child’s favorite cereal box every time I buy a new one. Even though the last time it was dairy free, I don’t assume that is still is.
I talk openly with my son about his allergy. (This one was hard for me!) When he first got diagnosed, I wanted to shield him from the fact that anything was changing, or that we were worried, or that anything bad might happen to him. But that’s not the route to take. I don’t want him to be fearful, but I want him to be equipped. I want to give him the knowledge and tools he needs to stay safe in the future. So now, if he asks for the block of cheese he sees in the fridge, I say “I’m sorry buddy, but that contains milk. That could make you sick.” He has started responding lately by scrunching his nose and saying “Yea…boo-boo.” (he’s only a year and a half old) While it’s inwardly a little sad to me that my baby even has to think about whether a food is going to make him sick or not, it’s a relief to know that he is beginning to learn where the boundary lines are.
I stay positive and innovative. While there are things we have eliminated from our pantry, there is still a world of food options that ARE available to my son to eat. I often tell people that if ever there were a time in history to get a food allergy, this would be it! There are so many allergen free products on the market. The internet abounds with allergen free recipes. Pinterest is awesome for some creative ways to get around food allergens and still create enjoyable meals.
I bring back-up food. I typically try to have some type of food with me when I am out during mealtime with my child. That way, if we are at a friend’s house and the only available food that is allergen free is fruit, I can supplement that with some hummus and crackers or leftovers from the night before. Check restaurant menus before you arrive, and if there just aren’t great options for your child, take something along or go somewhere else. Simply use that phrase “My child has a serious allergy to ________, so I brought something from home for him to eat.”
I trust my gut. We were out at a restaurant recently, and I had done all of the things listed above: I have voiced our dietary needs to our server. I had asked about ordering various dishes for my son that may be dairy free. The server had spoken with the cooks and we had made an informed decision: he would have the bowtie pasta with marinara sauce and chicken- no cheese. The server was “confident that everything would be perfect.” When the dish arrived, the marinara sauce looked ever so slightly creamy in color. So I trusted my gut. I pulled the plate away from my son and called the waiter over to ask (super awkwardly and for the third time) if the sauce had cream in it. Sure enough: cream based marinara. They were super apologetic and sent the dish back. Little man ended up with a plate of plain pasta and chicken, which he was thrilled about and all was good. Bottom line: if something seems wrong- ask about it. Trust that instinct, caregivers!
I teach my child that his choices are powerful. This is a big concept in my mind these days and in the way that I parent. I want my child to know that his decisions carry weight. I want him to understand this now, at an early age and with small consequences, so that when he is grown he is prepared for big decisions. Obviously, I do not put my child in harms way. The way this typically plays out is something like: If my child decides to throw away half of his snack, and then (because he’s still hungry) asks for something else to eat, I don’t give it to him. I follow this by saying something like, “I’m sorry, but it looks like you decided you were done with your snack because you threw it away. I will make sure you get a good lunch in a little while. Love you, buddy.” If he is a little hungry for an hour or two, I’m ok with that. Hopefully next time he will remember that his actions have consequences. This will shape how he handles himself later, when he is in control of more of his decisions- including the choice to avoid foods that could cause a reaction.
I pray. I really believe that the Lord is good and that there is a lot of healing to be had in Him. I come from a Christian worldview and if that’s not something you’re into, I respect and honor you in that. But I do pray- for healing for my little boy and for others struggling with food allergies. There are amazing developments being made in the medical community in the area of food allergy research. I’m grateful for that. I long to see epi-pen prices at an affordable level. I desire freedom from anxiety and fear surrounding foods. So I commit that to you…I’m praying and asking the Lord for these things, for my family and yours.
We are going to get back to puddle-jumping in Tropical Storm Hermine!
My name is Emily Funcik, and I am a registered and licensed dietitian in Charleston, SC. I am also a stay-at-home mama, a wife, a foodie, and a dancer. I have a passion for healthy living, entertaining, and a deep-rooted loved of all things delicious.
|Emily Funcik Nutrition||
Emily Funcik Nutrition