So following last week’s post Food Allergies and Food Labels: What You Need to Know, I thought we should discuss next steps to more easily managing your or your child’s food allergy.
My advice is simple: in short, get cooking!
When my son was diagnosed with food allergies, I was not a great cook. Ok, I was not even a good cook. I was a hit or mostly-miss cook. He was originally diagnosed with so many food allergies, it was nearly impossible to go out to eat, so it was really baptism by fire.
I quickly found out that learning to cook taught me how to eat out more easily and eat in more comfortably. Having tried my hand at every interesting recipe I’ve come across has not only helped me get familiar with what ingredients are typically in meals, but also with the process of cooking itself.
This helps in several ways:
- Now, I can ask more educated questions to determine whether or not a dish might contain my son’s many allergies. In fact, it was sometimes my amateur knowledge of cooking that helped avoid allergen-mishaps at restaurants – like, when I insisted that the waiter recheck his sure-footed answer that the lebanese sausage we were about to order did NOT contain pine nuts (it did!). Or when, having cooked a similar meal myself the week before, I asked that the server to double-check his claim that their breaded chicken didn’t have egg.
- It also helped me determine if an off-the-shelf product at the supermarket would be safe for my son. He can now eat baked milk and eggs – a very exciting adjustment to his routine. But it makes you wonder things like, could he eat cheese-flavored chips? (Probably not, since the powdered cheese would be added after baking.) Or, was the chocolate covered cookie a safe dessert? (Probably not, because the cookie was likely dipped in chocolate after it was baked.)
- Cooking also gave me the experience to realize that certain cuisines were virtually free of my son’s allergens (like Greek, for example).
Learning to cook has also allowed our family to try foods we would ordinarily avoid because of my son’s allergies. Like Chinese food (click here to see some of our family’s favorite dishes), Korean or Middle Eastern dishes. When my son is interested in trying a new cuisine, I now feel a little more equipped to give each new request a try. Not only can I guarantee some of the trickier dishes are allergy-free, but they’re probably a lot healthier too – which is one of its own rewards.
The best reward, however, is a new dish or a new cuisine that wows my family’s tastebuds and expands my kids’ repetoires!