Dairy Free

How Do You Handle Food Intolerances at Home?

Monday June 1, 2015

This is a question I’ve been asking every parent of a child with food allergies or intolerances, and I’ve found that there are just as many methods as there are children.

The thing about a child’s diagnosis of  food allergy or intolerance, is that it doesn’t come with a rule book on how the rest of you should handle it. Do you forbid the food from your household? Do you allow it, but only after she or he is asleep? Do you just prepare the child different meals?

Having a child with food intolerances is a daily exercise in manners, kindness, and diligence. You have to make decisions about how to handle the food intolerance nearly all day long — is the toddler walking around the playground with a bag of Goldfish enough of a threat to whisk your kid away? Do you have enough time to shove a handful of almonds in your mouth, wash your hands and brush your teeth, before your toddler needs something. Do you eat the bowl of cereal in front of your toddler, while she screams her head off that she wants some, or do you just skip breakfast. Or, do you suck it up and find a hypo-allergenic cardboard tasting cereal, just so you can avoid fights?

I still don’t know what the right method is, even in the confines of my own family.  After two years of managing this, we’ve turned out to be the types to mostly banish the foods from our household. It’s turned out to be easier.

When we were still in the early days of figuring all of this out, Dave and I agreed that if Bean had an anaphylactic allergy to any food, we would not have it in the household. The internet is rife with stories of babies picking up crumbs off floors or getting into a cabinet and having to be rushed to the ER. We were going to go the cautious route.

When it turned out Bean was only intolerant to dairy, soy, and eggs, we relaxed slightly. No anaphylactic reactions, no, but days of stomach pain and full-body eczema is no picnic either. We thought it was important to have family meals, and we wanted to follow the Ellyn Satter method of everyone-eats-the-same-dinner, so we prepare dinners without any of her forbidden foods.

I still thought I could cook food that had forbidden ingredients in it (baking cookies for a new mom, having a dinner party), but after a few run-ins with cross contamination, I no longer cook anything that Bean can’t eat. Period. Knowing your kid will get sick because of your desire for real butter pretty much ruins your appetite for it.

I’ve also tried to eat forbidden foods in front of her, but the resulting fight is rarely worth it. There are enough toddler battles to deal with on a daily (hourly) basis, I feel like this food fight is one I don’t want to add to the mix. Dave and I do eat prepared food, though, like ice cream or Chinese delivery, but only after she goes to bed.

So, there we are. The family that doesn’t cook any food with dairy, soy, or eggs, but sometimes sneaks it in after bedtime.

If you have a child with food allergies or intolerances, what rules do you follow at home? Does it work for you, or are you hoping to change it?

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