Favorite safe foods for our baby with food allergies

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

**Disclaimer: I am not a health care provider or allergist. These recommendations are what work well for my family with a child allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, eggs and dairy. But what works and is safe for her, may not be safe for another. As always read labels and triple check that what you are eating is safe for you. I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of these products and have linked them for your convenience. Thanks for reading!**

When Olivia was diagnosed with so many life threatening food allergies, my first thought was what can we feed her?? What can I feed her that is free from nuts, wheat, eggs and dairy? And that means free from containing them AND free from cross contamination?? Doesn’t breakfast consist of eggs and toast?!! My husband and I went to the grocery store only to be completely overwhelmed. It felt like everything either contained, may contain or was made in the same facility as at least one of her food allergies. The vision I had in my head of my daughter enjoying pizza, bread, Mac and cheese, cookies – all the foods kids can freely enjoy – was crushed. Or so I thought.

Over the next few weeks I did so much research on how to feed my little girl. We took some wonderful advice from a family friend – thank you Elizabeth! – and searched for some good options. I did not want her food allergies to define Olivia and I knew there had to be a way through our fear to the other side! And there certainly was :). So many companies make really delicious and safe foods for Olivia. And when I took a step back and thought about what we eat, I realized most of what we eat can be modified so its safe for Olivia. This diagnosis is SO over whelming if you have never had to deal with food allergies. I hope that some of what we have tried may help you feel a little less over whelmed. Here are some of Olivia’s favorite safe meals! 🙂

Breakfast:

Snacks:

Lunch&Dinner:

    turkey or chicken breast
    Ham steak

Drinks:

Extras:

As we continue on this food allergy adventure, I know our pantry will continue to grow. How I feel about dealing with food allergies since Olivia’s diagnosis has changed so much. I have gone from being constantly anxiety ridden and terrified to being a lot more confident and sure of myself in the kitchen. Remember we must be prepared, not paranoid because not everyone is perfect.

So just keep cooking, trying, eating and as always advocating for even more delicious and safe options!!

Reading labels…a life or death job.

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

I never thought I’d be that mom. You know the one. The mom that is chasing her kid around the park with a wet wipe, the mom who wipes the entire shopping cart down just to put a carriage protector on anyway, or the mom that reads every single label on the food the entire family eats. But that’s me. I am that over protective, ready for anything type of mom because I have to be. I wasn’t given a choice when I became a mom – there was no menu that read: “circle stressed or relaxed mom” as a preference. But in order to keep my daughter safe, I will be that mom every damn day.

So in being “that” mom, I am extremely aware of the ingredients that are put in Olivia’s food. In the United States, food labeling for the top 8 allergens, on most prepared foods, is required by law. For example, the list of ingredients will have the allergen bold, in parentheses or at the end in a ‘contains’ statement.  Unfortunately, companies do not have to put whether or not the food was produced on shared lines with allergens or if they ‘may contain’ the allergen – these statements are completely voluntary. For kids that have very serious food allergies, producing food on shared lines with their allergen can bring about a deadly reaction so it is scary that companies are not required to disclose that information. This means that these foods may be cross contaminated with the food allergy, rendering it unsafe to consume.

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The regulation of labels also only applies to the top 8 food allergies in the United States: peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, shellfish, or fish. This excludes the 9th top food allergen – sesame. So needless to say, food labeling has a long way to go, but believe it or not, the United States is better than most places when it comes to being transparent about what’s in the food we eat.

Since becoming a food allergy momma, I have gotten really good at reading labels. I remember when I first wanted to bake Olivia cookies so I went to the store and picked up some Red Mills gluten free flour. I was SO excited until I got home and read – in the smallest, white print – that is produced in the same facility as tree nuts. It was so small that I didn’t even see it in the store – despite having checked twice! Now that I am a seasoned pro at reading labels, I feel more confident that I wouldn’t make a mistake like that again. But still, there are times I find myself frustrated and discouraged regarding food labeling or lack there of.

Olivia has always been a tiny girl so in order to increase her calorie intake, her pediatrician recommended that she start drinking formula to supplement her diet. Due to shared lines and same facilities, there are no safe milks that Olivia can drink without risk of cross contamination. With her interest in breast feeding starting to decrease and the lack of milk options, I was open to the idea of giving her a supplement. I reminded the doctor of her food allergies and was reassured that they make formula for kids like Olivia! She went into the office and came back with three “hypoallergenic” options for us to try. She read the labels in front of me and stated that they only listed Soy as an ingredient that could be tricky. Lucky for us, soy is not one of allergies so I took all three formula containers home to try out.

When we got home, I decided to – of course – read the labels again. Even though the  doctor assured me that they were safe, I know now from my experience with food allergies thus far, that you can’t trust anyone unless you read it yourself. I picked up the first formula called ‘Similac Alimentum For Food Allergies and Colic’ and started to read – and what do you know…the second ingredient listed was “CASEIN HYDROLYSATE [DERIVED FROM MILK]”. I was STUNNED. The second ingredient could kill my daughter and yet a doctor assured me that this was safe. And not only that, but the milk ingredient was hidden in about 50+ other ingredients, in the same font and type – nothing made this ingredient stand out or put up any red flags for people with allergies. I put it to the side and thought well, at least there are two other options. Picked up the next formula called ‘Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Infant Formula Powder with Iron’ and to my dismay – the same ingredient. This time is was the third ingredient but it listed “CASEIN HYDROLYSATE (MILK). At the bottom it stated “MODIFIED TO BE BETTER TOLERATED IN MILK-ALLERGIC BABIES”. Yet again, the milk ingredient was hidden among 50+ capitalized ingredients. This had me so upset. Yet again, another unsafe product for Olivia. For kids that are this allergic to milk, they cannot be exposed to their allergen. There is no “better tolerated in milk-allergic babies” for these kids. It needs to be complete avoidance but yet this was recommended to me by a professional. Luckily, the third formula seems to be safe enough to try, so I will let you all know what she thinks of it.

I was beside myself that my doctor would recommend formula and send me home with safe samples only to find that 2/3 could have really harmed her. And we LOVE Olivia’s pediatrician but this just goes to show the lack of knowledge and information that is out there about food allergies. This is a reminder to read every single table, ever single time. It doesn’t matter who tells you the food is safe, it doesn’t matter who prepared the food or from what store you purchased the store – you read that label every single time. Thank God I read this label before feeding it to my daughter. We need to continue to educate everyone around us – companies, professionals and people need to be held accountable. Food allergies are not a diet choice, but rather a serious disease and the solution is strict avoidance. We must continue to spread what we know, change policy on how companies label and what is required of them. We have the power to keep our kids safe – so just keep advocating.

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Our First Allergy Food Challenge

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

When we first found out Olivia was born with life threatening food allergies, she was only tested for peanuts and tree nuts. At the next appointment, following some negative reactions to certain foods, we added an allergy to eggs and dairy and at the third and final test, we added wheat. At each appointment we got more bad news piled on us. And despite the fact that these diagnoses were all unfavorable, it was nice to have answers. Our experience giving Olivia her first foods was unpleasant – she didn’t “like” anything we gave her – spaghetti, bread, and of course peanut butter – all did not go over well! So to find out that the reason she didn’t “like” the food was that they made her sick was a double edge sword – well, at least we had answers.

At our last appointment, Olivia had to get yet another skin test. The skin test involves a prick that is dipped in the allergen, and that prick is then pushed into her skin. We then wait 15 minutes to see if her skin reacts to the allergen. This time around, wheat and egg came back as being smaller than they were before which prompted the allergist to suggest we do a food challenge. A food challenge is when you are in the office surrounded by doctors and nurses and you give the allergic person the allergy to see what they can tolerate. Our hope was that because the skin test came back smaller than before (which means she is still technically allergic) she may be able to tolerate some wheat and egg! This would calm some of the anxiety we have on going out to eat or in public places in regards to cross contamination and touch reactions. We chose to do the wheat food challenge because if she passed this test, our world would open up! Bread? Toast? Crackers? YAY!

When you do a food challenge, the person being tested must not have any allergy medicine 5 days prior to test day. I also wish we would have known – don’t fill that kid up on lunch! They have to eat a lot of their allergen to pass the challenge – for Olivia, she would have to eat an entire roll and a half! If you know Olivia, that will make you laugh – which we totally did – at the nurse. She barely eats that much food in a day! Let alone in one sitting of a food she’s never had! But we were optimistic. At the beginning of the appointment they confirmed that Olivia wasn’t sick with any runny nose, cough or congestion. Then, she was skin pricked again to be sure wheat was still st the same levels as before. She was then cleared to be challenged!

The nurse prepared 5 doses of the allergen for the child to digest. We were armed with benedryl, 2 Epipens and water just in case we needed it! In the worst case scenario, Olivia could have gone into anaphylactic shock right there in front of us from us deliberately giving her what she’s allergic to – needless to say, my husband and I were nauseous and white faced the entire time. The first does went amazing! Olivia ate it in under 30 seconds! She seemed to love the flavor – of course she would – she is my daughter and bread is a carb. She got down on the floor and played wirh her books and puppies between every dose. The second dose was as easy as the first. The third dose is where we saw Olivia really slow down. She barely got through this dose which was a quarter roll. We thought maybe she was just getting full, until we started seeing more ominous symptoms…

After her third dose, Olivia started to sneeze every couple minutes. I remember looking into Dan’s eyes and its like we spoke to each other with no words. We knew sneezing was a symptom of anaphylaxis. Her sneezing seemed to subside so we moved forward. Her fourth dose was a giant one. We sat together and I held the first bite up to Olivia and she refused. We tried to hard to get her to eat more bread – we were so close to the end! She only needed to finish five doses to pass – but it wasn’t happening. So we knew she was all done. All of a sudden she started to sneeze again but this time, it was paired with coughing and a runny nose. We knew her body was fighting the wheat and it was time to call it. The doctor came in to check her out and assess if we needed to give her the Epi Pen. Her symptoms were mild and only required Benadryl for the time being. We waited in the office for an additional 60 minutes to be sure she was safe and would not go into anaphalixis. After we were cleared to leave, the doctor confirmed what we already knew – Olivia had failed her wheat challenge. Failing a food challenge meant she would need to continue to avoid foods containing wheat, that may contain wheat or foods that are made on shared lines with wheat. This was something we were already doing so we were used to this scenario but we were very disappointed the results did not turn out better. On a positive note, since Olivia was able to tolerate some wheat, the doctor was optimistic that she may not be contact reactive to wheat, rather is only allergic if she ingests wheat.

We left the office feeling defeated and uneasy. Olivia was irritable and exhausted – her nose continued to run but her other symptoms subsided with the Benedryl. That night we watched her closely, fearing a biphasic reaction to the wheat – this is a secondary anaphylactic reaction that can occur hours after the initial exposure to the allergen. We held her close all night and luckily, she was back to her old self in the morning.

In the days that followed, Dan and I thought about whether we felt that challenging wheat was worth it. Despite being terrified in the office and the failed results, we ultimately think it was 100% worth doing. We learned that if Olivia were to touch a loaf of bread and put her hands in her mouth on accident – she would probably be okay! Her body was able to tolerate a small dose meaning if she comes into contact with wheat, she should be able to handle the allergen. And we learned that she is indeed allergic to ingesting wheat – something Dan and I weren’t totally sure of before the challenge. We are hopeful she will outgrow her wheat allergy – being that nearly 80% of kids outgrow their allergy to wheat by age 5! So, even though food challenges are completely terrifying, they gave us a lot of information and we feel it’s a necessary part of Olivias food allergy adventure.

In the months to come, we will have a baked egg challenge! This challenge requires us to bake a delicious egg muffin for her to eat! If she passes this challenge, we can start baking her items with egg in them which will have added calories and protein! I will keep you all updated when that challenge is! In the meantime, just keep advocating!