A Working Mom’s Guide to Food Allergies

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!


10 thoughts on “A Working Mom’s Guide to Food Allergies

  1. I would looooove some of the recipes you use!!! You are amazing for doing all this and doing it all with a positive spirit.

  2. This is some great advice, MG, not only for those with allergy sensitivities, but for overall health! Do you have any advice for making gluten-free baked goods, or even some box mixes to try? And i love how you knew what you had to do for your family and you took charge. Love that about you!

    1. Marie! Thanks for the support. I just posted a couple of websites that have fabulous recipes below. If you’re looking for quick and easy boxed brands – I love Cherrybrook Kitchen (they have an awesome fudge chocolate chip brownie I bake every time we have company and I don’t tell them it’s everything-free hee hee), Namaste has great pancake mix, and Gluten Free Pantry is good too, I use their cornbread mix for stuffing at Thanksgiving. Also, most supermarkets now have a gluten free aisle so check that out too. I believe King Arthur has a gluten-free line and Betty Crocker too. Enjoy experimenting!

  3. Thanks so much for this great post and sharing your list! I would add agave nectar to sweeteners too, and I love organic cashew butter – yum. Also, have you tried tofu ricotta? I made vegan eggplant kale rollatini last night with tofu ricotta and I swear it tasted just like the real thing!! It was from Veganomicon – my new favorite cookbook and website. I also agree that one of the biggest obstacles to changing your diet is dealing with the reactions of other people. I’ve had people tell me I will be depriving my son if I don’t let him eat ‘real’ cake on his first birthday!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and for the suggestions. I’ll add them to the list. You made my mouth water over the eggplant, kale rollatini going to try that!

      1. So I realized after I posted that you also said no soy!!! Oops – sometimes I actually forget that tofu is soy (I know that sounds crazy, but I’m so focused on avoiding processed soy). Sorry!!

  4. Oh can I relate. My second little girl (now 5) was dairy and soy sensitive… plus I’m vegetarian. I breastfed her for 18 months. Even today people look at me like I was crazy for giving up dairy and soy for that long. It was the best thing I could have done for my little girl AND, as you suggest, once I figured it out, I didn’t feel deprived (plus I ate so much healthier with packaged goods and most store bought baked goods were out of the questio, not to mention all the baked goods people would bring to the office !). My little girl grew out of her sensitivities so we’ve returned to dairy and soy (especially now that she’s morphed to a picky eater who will eat dairy and soy with some reliability). Funny thing is, I felt better without dairy and soy in my diet, too, but making the change for ME is near impossible and as much as people thought I was crazy for giving up dairy and soy for my daughter, I felt they respected the choice… if I make a comment about giving it up for me, they try extra hard to talk me out of it.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I agree doing this has been the best thing for us and it’s interesting you got the same feedback I did. My daughter has outgrown the nut sensitivity and I was so overjoyed for that!

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