Breastfeeding and Food Allergies

Today I’d like to write a little bit about why you might want to breastfeed a baby with food allergies.  Now we all know that breastmilk gives your baby the best start in life and all that jazz, but that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about having a baby with food allergies and having to make the choice between breast and bottle.  Having been through that myself, I wanted other parents to know that breastfeeding a baby with food allergies is entirely possible and has a lot of benefits.

Power to the breastfeeding mamas of babies with allergies! You rock!

When not to breastfeed a baby with food allergies

First of all, if your baby has very severe reactions (i.e. requiring hospitalisation) then you might be advised to stop breastfeeding immediately.  This is because it can take weeks for food allergens to completely get out of your system and your breastmilk.  It might be possible to pump and dump your milk during this time if you are really determined (you would need to do it around the clock to maintain your milk supply).  You will need to seek doctor’s advice on this and lots of support.  Otherwise, read on…

Build your knowledge of safe foods

The major problem with breastfeeding a baby with food allergies, is that you may need to cut all of the foods your baby is or could be allergic to out of your own diet.  If it’s a common food like dairy or wheat, I’ll be honest, it can be tough.  If your baby has multiple allergies, it’s downright miserable at times.  You will have to sit and watch people eat cake while you munch on raisins.  Eating out is a pain in the backside.  You can’t cheat *ever* as you know you will make your baby ill. You will have to read the ingredients on every single item of food you eat.  Visiting friends or family for dinner will require military style planning.

However, there is great benefit to going through all of this! Your baby will have to avoid all of those foods when they start weaning, and you will have to go through all of that hassle anyway, so why not start now?  By the time your baby does start on solids you will have extensive knowledge of all their safe foods.  Plus you will know which ‘free from’ foods taste good and which ones don’t.  And your friends and family will already be up to speed with your baby’s needs.

Breastmilk is wonderful stuff!

Breastmilk is more nutritionally complete, which is even more important if your baby is on a restricted diet.  It also varies with time (even within a single feed!) to perfectly meet your baby’s nutritional needs.  Breastmilk also contains non-nutritional benefits for your baby’s immune system.  You can read a full explanation of the immune benefits from the Infant Nutrition Council (I’m no scientist).  Since allergies are a problem with the immune system overreacting and attacking food as if it is a foreign invader, babies with allergies may benefit even more from breastfeeding as long as possible. Formula milk is of course perfectly adequate if you choose to use it and contains all the necessary nutrients.  However it doesn’t change over time to meet your baby’s needs and doesn’t have the immune system benefits.

Increasing choice

‘Free from’ food nowadays is better than ever before, and new products are coming on the market all the time.  There are more and more new specialist brands making free from foods, and many of the supermarkets are bringing out their own products.  It’s also getting better for people with multiple allergies as the free from aisle doesn’t just mean gluten free, but increasingly dairy, soya and egg free as well (always check the packaging to be sure).

Food challenges

Breastfeeding also gives you a really gentle way to do food challenges, when the time comes.  Check with your healthcare practitioner for advice on your individual baby’s needs.  If you’re advised that you’re safe to do food challenges at home, you could start by eating a small amount of the allergen in question yourself. Then wait two to three days and see if your baby has a reaction.  The amount of the allergen that goes through in your breastmilk will be less than if your baby ate the food directly, so you can very gradually build up your baby’s tolerance to that food.

Less hassle

Breastfeeding means you won’t be reliant on prescription formula.  You’ll never run out.  You’ll never have to drive to three different pharmacies to get your baby’s milk because they’re out of stock everywhere.  You won’t have to remember to get repeat prescriptions.  You won’t ever have to argue with a doctor that you need more milk than usual because your baby is on a growth spurt.  It’s just there all the time.

Still thinking of stopping breastfeeding?

Prescription formula is not a magic bullet.  It can take time to find the right one that suits your baby, that they won’t react to.  They may also need medication to help them tolerate it.  It’s still made from cow’s milk – the thing that your baby is allergic to.  It’s also extremely processed.  If you’re anything like me, you’re not keen on the idea of giving babies processed food.

It’s a myth that you need prescription formula for cooking once your baby starts on solids.  Nowadays, there are so many different plant based milks out there.  And prescription formula doesn’t taste very nice!  Why not try soy milk , almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, oat milk, rice milk, cashew milk or flax milk? There is so much choice available these days.  All of these milks behave a little differently in cooking but can be substituted easily in most recipes.

Tips and tricks

My experience of breastfeeding a baby with food allergies was that it was a really, really steep learning curve.  However I did find lots of nice things to eat, and I had lots of fun trying new things.  The first time you go food shopping it will take you two hours while you examine all the food labels.  After that it gets easier as you will learn what you can and can’t have.  Also, there are tons of cookbooks around at the moment that cater for vegan/gluten free/paleo/’clean eating’ diets as all of these are quite trendy. Yes, people actually give up these foods voluntarily!  It’s a chance to try new recipes and experiment a bit.  Meal planning also really, really helps.

Remember to ask for advice: If you’re dairy and/or egg free, ask a vegan friend about foods that are accidentally vegan, (like chocolate bourbons and Ritz crackers) and which restaurants are best for eating out.  If you’re wheat or gluten free, ask someone with coeliac disease.

I’m not saying that mums whose babies have food allergies *should* breastfeed, only that they can do it for as long as they would like to, if they want to.  It is hard work but you will have to do the hard work when your baby starts weaning anyway, so I didn’t see that as a reason not to try.  Personally I felt that the benefits of breastfeeding outweighed the disadvantages.  Our paediatrician encouraged me to breastfeed for two years (I managed 23 months).  Food allergies are not in themselves a reason to stop breastfeeding, if you want to carry on.

gluten dairy soya and egg free sweet potato pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancakes (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soya Free, Low FODMAPS)

gluten dairy soya and egg free sweet potato pancakes

Flipping heck! (sorry, couldn’t resist!!) It’s Pancake Day on Tuesday 28th February!  Here’s our favourite pancake recipe, we make them for breakfast most weekends.  My 6yo likes them with chocolate spread on, my 3yo likes them plain, with maple syrup or with jam, and I like them with coconut butter and fresh fruit.  They also taste great with fruit puree or compote on top.  Yum yum!  I usually make a double batch as they reheat well in the microwave.

gluten free sweet potato pancakes with fruit
Served with fresh fruit and coconut butter, these allergy-friendly pancakes make a tasty treat!

Credit where credit’s due: this recipe is adapted from Deliciously Ella’s Sweet Potato Pancakes.  However I have changed three out of the six ingredients as follows, which I think justifies republishing it here:

easter bunny pancakes
These pancakes are also great for some Easter Bunny Fun
    • substituted dairy-free coconut milk alternative instead of oat milk, to make it completely gluten-free and suitable for coeliacs and those with gluten allergy
    • switched brown rice flour to gluten free plain flour, because I already have enough random packets of flour in my cupboard and I didn’t want another one, plus brown rice flour is about ten times the price of your bog standard gluten free flour
    • used maple syrup instead of honey to make it low FODMAPs (and also suitable for vegans) – note that sweet potato in the quantities used in this recipe should be low FODMAPs as long as you don’t eat more than 3 pancakes, which is a filling portion for an adult.

allergy friendly pancakes
Allergy friendly pancakes with coconut butter, apple puree and strawberry jam. Delish!

gluten dairy soya and egg free sweet potato pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soya Free, Low FODMAPS)
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
gluten dairy soya and egg free sweet potato pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Soya Free, Low FODMAPS)
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: pancakes
Instructions
  1. Wash, dry, and pierce the sweet potato with a sharp knife. Place on a suitable plate and microwave for 5-10 minutes until soft and tender.
  2. Cut the sweet potato into quarters and allow to cool slightly, then peel the skin off with your fingers (it comes off very easily when cooked). Discard the skin and place the sweet potato skin in a food processor.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, except coconut oil and blend until smooth.
  4. Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Place a large heaped tablespoon of batter into the pan and spread into a circle with the back of the spoon. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until it is firmed up and golden brown on the underside (use a spatula to check), then flip and cook on the other side.
  5. Cook in batches of 3-4 pancakes until you've used up all of the mixture. Add more coconut oil in between batches if the pan dries out.
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Healthy Avocado Chocolate Mousse (Dairy Free, Soya Free, Gluten Free, Egg Free, Vegan)

This avocado chocolate mousse is full of nutrients and allergy-friendly to boot.  It has quite a dark chocolate vibe and will satisfy any chocolate cravings.  I LOVE eating avocados, especially when I need to lose a little bit of weight, as they are so good for you, and they are full of healthy fats which will fill you up and stop you craving junk food and snacks.  It can also be whipped up in just 5 minutes in a food processor and only has 5 ingredients.  You can eat it as a dessert or as a really decadent breakfast.  I ate this homemade chocolate mousse a lot when I was breastfeeding my daughter with allergies as it is free from all of the most common allergens, and it’s really satisfying.  It would also make a gorgeous Valentine’s treat for anyone who is on a restricted diet served with a few strawberries. I usually make it with pumpkin seed butter to make it nut free, but it’s also delicious with almond butter.  Confession: the recipe serves 2 adults but I would often eat the whole thing myself!

Another reason I love this recipe as it’s a great way of using up any half-eaten or over-ripe bananas.  Sometimes I find my kids like the idea of eating a banana but can’t actually be bothered to eat the whole thing, which used to annoy me.  Now however I keep a tupperware container in the freezer into which I chop up any leftover bits of banana.  I do the same things with bananas that are getting a bit too brown.  Then it’s ready to go whenever I fancy making this recipe.  It’s also handy for making smoothies and banana bread as well.


Healthy Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Print Recipe
Servings
2 adults
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings
2 adults
Cook Time
5 minutes
Healthy Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Print Recipe
Servings
2 adults
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings
2 adults
Cook Time
5 minutes
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Easy peasy!
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Breastfeeding Support for Food Allergy Babies

I was shocked to read yesterday in the Mirror that in some areas, parents of babies with milk allergies will no longer be able to get formula free on prescription!  Dairy Free Baby and Me has written a great response to this proposal with a balanced view of the pros and cons of the decision.  The prescription formula costs up to £46 a tin (compared to £10 a tin for normal formula) and the tins are much smaller, so it would work out at hundreds of pounds a month, which is rather extreme.

What surprised me more though, is the large proportion of mums of babies with cows milk allergy who have found themselves relying on formula because they were unable to breastfeed.  So I wanted to write this post to help mums who would like to breastfeed their babies with food allergies find where they can get support.  Breastfeeding a baby with allergies is possible – my daughter has 6 food allergies and I breastfed her until just before she was 2 years of age.  It wasn’t easy but I felt that breastfeeding was the best option for our situation.  I completely understand that it’s not for everyone, if you couldn’t breastfeed or didn’t want to, I don’t really care, I’m only writing this article for those mums who would like to know where they can get breastfeeding support and not in judgement of those who bottle feed. (Full disclosure: I combination fed my first daughter a mixture of breast and bottle (expressed milk and formula), I exclusively breastfed my second and didn’t even express so she never had a bottle.  Different sitations, different choices.)

Breastfeeding, when it is going well, can be lovely and a wonderful bonding experience between you and your baby.  There are also many health benefits for both mum and baby which are worth bearing in mind when choosing between breast and bottle.  However if it is not going well it can be really hard work and this is where you need to look for support.  Getting the right help can reassure you that your baby is getting enough milk, that they are growing well, that their fussiness is normal and does not mean that you are a bad mum, and can also point you in the right direction if there is a problem such as food allergies, tongue tie, or mastitis (I’ve experienced all of these and I couldn’t have got through it on my own).

Face-to-face support

The easiest way to get face-to-face support with breastfeeding is at a drop-in support group.  These are often run by SureStart centres, La Leche League, and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).  They are often run by ‘peer supporters’ which means mums who have breastfed at least one baby and who have been on a training course to learn how to support other mums.  Peer supporters have been through it all before and can reassure you about what is normal and what is not, providing practical and emotional support.  They can check your baby is latching properly and discuss any issues you may be concerned about.  If there is a problem they can tell you where to get help in your local area (e.g. where to hire a breast pump, how to get diagnosis of an allergy, or how to get a tongue tie corrected).  They can also help you plan how to continue breastfeeding when you return to work.  You can go to these groups with breastfed babies and toddlers at any age, you can also go if you are combination feeding, or if you have previously formula fed a baby and want to learn about breastfeeding for a subsequent child.  They are very friendly and welcoming places and there is no judgement.  It’s also fine to turn up late (to be honest it’s expected if you have a newborn) – they are ‘drop-in’ groups!  They’re also a great place to meet other mums and make new friends which is oh-so-important in the early weeks of parenting, and you can help to support each other in all areas as your babies grow and develop.

You can also get face-to-face support from breastfeeding counsellors, who are experienced breastfeeders who have received more extensive training in providing breastfeeding support.  You can find out about local breastfeeding counsellors in your area from drop-in groups, health visitors, midwives, and hospitals.

Lactation consultants are also available in some hospitals and also work privately.  They are sometimes referred to as an IBCLC which means ‘International Board Certified Lactation Consultant’, which is the highest level of breastfeeding and lactation certification, requiring extensive training and experience.  They can provide support in more complex, difficult or high-risk situations.  You can find your nearest IBCLC at the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain website.

Another source of support is from your health visitor or GP.  However in my experience I have found that these can be a bit hit-and-miss as to whether they have much knowledge of breastfeeding, and how supportive they are.  They are more useful if you need a referral for medical support such as correcting a tongue tie or if you are worried you may have mastitis.

Telephone support

There are a number of phonelines you can call for breastfeeding support.  Like the drop-in groups these are mainly staffed by peer supporters who volunteer their time to help breastfeeding mums.  They are great if you are having a wobble and need some reassurance and there’s no drop-in groups that day, or if something happens in the evening and you don’t want to wait until the following morning to speak to someone about it.

Online support

There are loads of places online to get breastfeeding support, the internet really is a great resource for breastfeeding mums!  There are Facebook groups where you can chat to other breastfeeding mums as well as websites with tons of information about breastfeeding and suggestions of ways to deal with different issues.  As well as the sites listed below, it’s worth looking for local websites and groups such as attachment/natural/gentle parenting groups where you are more likely to find other breastfeeding mums.  Also if you are looking for help with a specific problem, just Googling it will bring up lots of helpful advice and information.  Here are some of my favourite sites:

I’ve breastfed both of my two children until they were almost two, and over the years I’ve relied on all of these sources of support.  I had great difficulty in breastfeeding my eldest daughter as she had a very severe tongue tie (she still has a heart shaped tongue) and breastfeeding her extremely painful – the midwives at the hospital helped teach me how to express some milk as she couldn’t latch properly.  I went regularly to breastfeeding drop-in groups for the first few weeks for emotional support and they suggested nipple creams, nipple shields and so on to help with the pain.  I remember one particularly bad evening where I felt like throwing in the towel I phoned the breastfeeding helpline which helped give me the strength to carry on just one more day. I saw an NHS lactation consultant at the local hospital who helped to check my baby was latching correctly and referred us for tongue-tie correction, and eventually ended up seeing a private IBCLC who performed the procedure (as the NHS consultant in my area was on annual leave and I literally couldn’t wait any longer).  With my second daughter (who also had a tongue tie that was spotted at birth and corrected a week later, thankfully) I relied more on the network of friends I had made first time around, but as I realised she had allergies, and didn’t get anywhere with my GP, I made extensive use of the internet, googling food allergies and reading through dozens of posts from other mums like me who were struggling – just knowing there were others going through the same as me helped.  So breastfeeding can be challenging, but with determination and the right support, it is entirely possible, even in difficult circumstances.

 

Eating Out With Food Allergies – Nandos (Review)

It’s been a while – summer holidays and all – but now we are settled back into the school routine and I finally have a bit of time and energy for blogging again!  So I am really excited to share with you all a great restaurant for eating out with allergies that we have visited a couple of times over the summer – Nando’s.  For those who haven’t visited before, Nando’s is a Portugese themed restaurant serving mainly chicken dishes.  They menu is quite simple, you can mix and match mains and sides, which means they can prepare all the food really quickly, but it’s ‘proper’ food, not junky fast food.  Handy if you’re in town running errands or doing shopping and need a quick bite to eat.

In the UK, restaurants are required by EU law to provide allergen information to customers on request.  This can be a blanket disclaimer on the wall saying something along the lines of ‘Food prepared on the premises may contain traces of gluten, dairy, soya, egg, nuts etc…’ – basically making no attempt at all to cater for those with allergies and intolerances – or maybe a table with the entire menu listed with tick boxes for each allergen written in tiny writing which gives you a headache before you’ve even ordered your drinks.  Well, at Nando’s you get this baby:

img_2861
Check out this bad boy!

It looks daunting at first; it’s a thick ringbinder with every dish listed on a separate page.  It is huge and weighs a ton.  However it is incredibly detailed, well organised, and easy to read.  The dishes are sorted into groups with dividers, e.g. starters, mains and sides, which makes it easy to find what you are looking for.  Then on the page for the particular dish it lists all of the ingredients at the top, with detailed allergen information listed underneath.  This is amazing for people who are allergic to foods that are not covered by the current EU law, as you can see literally everything.  It also shows you which part of the meal contains which allergen, for example in the picture below (from the children’s menu – ‘Nandino’ chicken burger) you can see that the bread roll contains milk, soya, egg and gluten, so you could potentially ask for the chicken burger without the roll if you need to avoid any of those ingredients.  On the back of the page it also has all the nutrition information for the dish such as calories, fat, carbohydrate, protein etc.

img_2859
All the information you could ever want!

On the children’s menu they also have this main course of chicken breast fillet strips which is free from ALL of the top allergens, yippee!!!  Perfect for little ones who have multiple allergies.  The chips are also fine (no sneaky gluten in them) and corn-on-the-cob is just as-is, with no butter added, and you can get a ‘Chilly Billy’ ice lolly for pudding, so you can actually get a complete meal, hurrah!  They also have some new dairy-free gelado (posh for ice cream!) on the menu – mango and chocolate flavour, although we haven’t tried them yet – an excuse for another visit methinks!

img_2860
Look ma, no allergens!

And all of this information is also available on the Nando’s website so you can check ahead of time.  Just click on the little (i) underneath whichever dish you want to look at and the nutrition and dietary information will pop up.

2016-09-29-1
Allergy mums must do their homework!

So, what about cross-contamination?  All of the allergens are included in at least one meal on the menu so it is potentially a problem.  On their website they state: “If you do have an allergy, please let us know when you order so we can make double sure your meal is prepared with the utmost care to minimise cross-contamination.”  I think the key word there is minimise.  You will know for yourself how sensitive you or your little one is to their allergen(s) so you will have to judge whether the risk is acceptable or not.  We have eaten at two different Nando’s restaurants recently and our experience has been completely fine on both occasions, and our little girl is sensitive enough to react from cross-contamination sometimes.  They were able to mark the food allergy on the order through the till.  On the whole Nando’s seem pretty clued up about food allergies, although it will depend on the individual staff on the day and what level of training they have had.

Have you eaten out at Nando’s recently?  How was your experience?

Gingerbread Biscuits – Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Soya and Nut Free, Vegan

IMG_2654

Food allergies and baking.  Total nightmare.  I’ve had more fails than successes (a LOT more).  However this recipe is really, honest to goodness YUMMY and we have made them many, many times.   These gingerbread men contain no gluten, dairy, soya, egg or nuts.  They’re also suitable for vegans and are low-FODMAPs.  The ingredients can all be found in any large supermarket – in fact if you have allergies you probably already have all of them in your cupboards. They are easy to make and great fun for kids to help with too (mine usually end up eating half the dough as we go along!) – perfect for a rainy day in the holidays, or a fun Christmas activity.  I’ve adapted this vegan gingerbread men recipe from  Bit of The Good Stuff to make it gluten free, plus I’ve also simplified it.

They can also be made ahead of time.  The uncooked dough can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days, and the finished biscuits can be frozen.  They’re soft enough for toddlers to eat and perfect to take along to parties.

 

IMG_2758
Our homemade gingerbread men, all wrapped up and ready to buy back for ourselves at the school fete (just so the kids can join in)
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My little helpers decorating a batch of gingerbread men.

IMG_2710
You probably have most of these ingredients in your cupboard already!

Gingerbread Men - Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Soya and Nut Free, Vegan
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
24 biscuits 15 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 biscuits 15 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Gingerbread Men - Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Soya and Nut Free, Vegan
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
24 biscuits 15 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 biscuits 15 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: biscuits
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with non stick baking paper.
  2. Put the dairy free spread, sugar and molasses in a pan over a low heat. Stir frequently as it melts until well combined.
  3. Sift the remaining ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon) into a large bowl. Mix well to distribute the spices. Pour in the contents of the pan and stir well until it forms a dough (you may need to use your hands to bring it together at the end). If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it is too dry you can add a little dairy free milk.
  4. Roll out the dough in between 2 sheets of baking paper to a thickness of about 1/2 cm. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes as desired. Use a fish slice or palette knife to transfer the biscuits to the baking tray (they are quite delicate). Bring the scraps of dough back together into a ball and repeat until all the dough is used up.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven when golden brown and leave to firm up and cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
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On Being Different

Photo Credit: Toys R Us

If your child has allergies/intolerances, when was the first time your little one really realised they were different to everyone else?

My daughter, who has multiple food allergies, is 2 years 5 months. She knows that there are some foods she’s not allowed because they make her poorly.  In fact, lately we’ve been having conversations about it most mealtimes.  She knows that she has her own special milk, and that she is not allowed eggs, cheese, bread, etc.  She also knows to ask before eating food that other people have given her.  She’s also used to being told not to share her other people’s food.  When we go to parties, she brings her own lunchbox of food.  So she does have some understanding about her allergies, in a two year old way.  But usually, if there’s something she’s not allowed, I’ve provided a suitable alternative, and so she’s not been too bothered.

Until Monday.  We went to our usual local playgroup.  It’s a group in our local church hall, run by volunteers, and they’ve been absolutely fabulous at accommodating my little one.  The children have communal snack time, where they all sit down together and eat, with biscuits, crisps and fruit.  It’s lovely and I think it’s great that they get to have the experience of eating all together.  In the past, the food was put out in front of the children, in the middle of their table, for them to help themselves.  But to make it safe for my daughter, they now put all the food out on a different, adult-height table at the side, with each food in separate bowls.  Each parent takes a plate for their child and takes food from the selection.  They’ve also taken the time to ask me what food is safe for my girl and they do their best to make sure there is something suitable for her every week – the fruit is always fine but only certain brands of crisps are ok, and sometimes they get her some rice cakes instead of biscuits.

Up until now she’s been oblivious to the fact that her friends are eating biscuits and she’s been eating (mainly) fruit.  But this week was different.  She looked at the child sitting next to her, and saw he was eating a biscuit.  Then she looked to the other side and saw that that child was also eating a biscuit.  I watched as she then looked around every single child at the table and realised that they were all eating biscuits.  Except for her.  She looked at me, and in a very hopeful voice said, “I ‘lowed deese biscuits?”  I said sorry, no.  For a moment she looked absolutely gutted.  My heart broke for her, and I waited with bated breath to see if she was going to cry or have a tantrum.  But I couldn’t believe what happened next – she just shrugged it off and went back to pulling silly faces and blowing raspberries at her friends!

To say I was proud is an understatement! She can have a tantrum over having the wrong colour cup, but this she took in her stride.  She was more mature about it than I used to be when I was breastfeeding and dairy & soya free (otherwise she would react to my breastmilk).  The first time we went to a cafe and my husband had chocolate cake while I had to make do with a packet of crisps, I wanted to cry and sulked for at least half an hour!

So I’m hoping that this is a good sign of how things are going to go in the future, as I’m sure there will be many more occasions where she can’t have the same as everyone else.  For me, once you get used to the constant planning and preparation of managing food allergies, the biggest challenge is the emotional repercussions of always being different to everyone else.  Hopefully the silver lining is that these early experiences will help to build character and resilience, which will be great qualities to have as an adult!

How has your little one reacted to these types of situations?  Have you had a positive experience like us or have you been unlucky and had a negative reaction?  I’d love to hear other’s experiences!

What I Would Like Non-Allergy Parents To Know

I have two children on restricted diets for medical reasons, one due to food allergies and one due to IBS.  This means I have to check everything they eat very carefully to make sure that it is safe for them.  I know that you probably think that I am being neurotic and fussy, I used to think the same thing before I had a child with allergies.  Thankfully, my child with allergies doesn’t have anaphylatic reactions (yet), but she is still super sensitive to her allergens and if she accidentally eats even a miniscule amount of something she is allergic to she can be unwell for a full week.  For example, we recently ate chips at a soft play (the only safe thing on the menu), but the chips were obviously fried in the same oil as everything else.  Later that day she came out in hives, which were itchy and sore.  They lasted for three days – thank goodness for Piriton.  She also had tummy aches, trapped wind and an upset tummy, and was up in the night crying in pain.  It took a full week for whatever it was to get out of her system and get back to normal.   Just from eating something that was fried in the same oil as everything else.  I dread to think what would happen if she accidentally ate a Wotsit.

Our paediatrician has advised us not to give her any of her allergens for 12 months.  This will hopefully allow the antibodies that cause the reaction to reduce down to a level where she can eat the food safely again.  So every accidental exposure means we have to reset the clock and start again.

In addition my older daughter (who is on a low FODMAPs diet for IBS) accidentally ate a large amount of watermelon last week which caused her to have an upset tummy the next day.  Only a small reaction but still not pleasant.  It was also a pain for me as I’m currently going through a regime of food reintroductions to figure out which foods she is intolerant to, so I wasn’t able to do any more tests for three days to ensure she was clear of any reactions.

Recently my neighbour’s child, who has coeliac disease, accidentally ate two bites of a (gluten-containing) biscuit.  Two hours later she vomited, was up all night being sick, and was quite poorly for a few more days after.

For children who have anaphylactic reactions, accidental exposure to their allergen could kill them.

So I hope you can understand why sharing food is really stressful for parents of children with allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease.  It’s difficult because we of course want to teach our children to share with their friends, but we need to do this in a way that is safe for everybody.

Here’s what I would like:

  • If you would like to give my child food, please tell me first.  I need to check the packaging to make sure the ingredients are all safe.  Some of my daughter’s allergies are not on the list of top 14 allergens and will not be highlighted on an ingredients list, so you have to read every single ingredient thoroughly.
  • Even if you know the food is safe, please still let me know out of courtesy, because if I see my child eating food that I haven’t given her, I basically have a massive panic attack.  I want to run up to her and rip the food out of her hands so that I can check the packet.  For a parent whose child is coeliac, multiply this by 10.  For parents whose children have anaphylactic reactions, times a million.  Also, things can change, she may develop new allergies/intolerances, so please just check with me first to be on the safe side.
  • If you’re not sure whether a food is safe, please check with me first, and not my child.  A young child cannot be expected to for sure whether a food is safe for them or not.  The amazing range of free from foods is brilliant, but makes it harder for them to understand, because they may be used to eating bread, biscuits and pasta at home but not know that it is different from the bread, biscuits and pasta in your home.  If the child is on an exclusion diet and still figuring out what foods are problematic, they cannot be expected to remember everything that is and isn’t allowed.
  • If you are in any doubt at all don’t give it to my child even if you think they might be upset.  An allergic child is used to being told they cannot eat things, they will get over it.  In any case, I’d rather they cry for 5 minutes than be ill for a week.
  • Please tell your children not to share food with my child, especially if you know it’s not safe.  I know it seems counter intuitive as we are all trying to encourage our children to learn to share.  You could just say something like ‘Please don’t share your food with X because it makes her feel poorly’.  I also tell my child not to eat anyone else’s food but if someone offers her a chocolate button I don’t know if she would understand enough to refuse, she is only 2 after all.  My 5 year old has a much better understanding and knows that if anyone offers her food she has to check with me first.

Thank you for listening!  Food allergy parents are reliant on other people to keep our children safe, including your children.  It’s a growing issue, with food allergies and intolerances on the rise, and one I think we all need to be aware of.  If we’re sharing food with someone and I’m not sure if they have allergies or not, I always check with the child’s mum.  Even if I know the food is safe I still ask their mum if it’s ok anyway just out of respect, because they might have a rule of no snacks before dinner, or they might have eaten a ton of sugar, loads of crisps or a whole bunch of bananas already that day and the mum might not thank me for giving their child more of the same.

Have you had any problems with accidental food sharing?  How do you communicate with non-allergy parents?

Low FODMAPs Lamb Curry

Not beautiful but very tasty!
Not beautiful but very tasty!

Onions and garlic are two foods to be avoided on a low-FODMAPs diet.  They are high in fructans and can cause uncomfortable bloating and wind in people with IBS.  Unfortunately they are common ingredients in most curries as well as being in curry powder!  I’ve shared my dairy-free lamb curry recipe before, which was adapted from an original recipe from the book My Daddy Cooks, and now I’ve adapted it again to make it low-FODMAPs as well.  It also contains no peas, beans or lentils and no dairy which are also high-FODMAPs foods that are found in a lot of curries.   I’ve checked all the ingredients using the Monash University app to make sure they are all low-FODMAPs. This is a mild curry and is suitable for babies and children (it’s one of my 5 year old’s favourites).  You can also use diced chicken instead of lamb mince, if you prefer.

This recipe serves 4 adults, so we usually have some leftovers for lunch the next day.  It’s also really easy to double the recipe and freeze it to make your own ‘ready meals’ on days where you don’t want to cook.  It goes well with rice, sometimes we also have it with gluten free flatbreads, which is the closest thing to naans that I can find.

IMG_2650

Low FODMAPs Lamb Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 2 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 2 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Low FODMAPs Lamb Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 2 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 adults 2 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: adults
Instructions
  1. Heat the garlic oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the grated ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the lamb mince and spices and brown, stirring well.
  3. Add all the other ingredients. Stir frequently until the spinach and coconut have melted and all the ingredients are well combined.
  4. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes or so until the sauce is thickened.
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Food Allergies? Here’s How To Reduce Your Food Bills

In my last blog post I showed that ‘free from’ foods can cost double, triple or even more compared to their standard equivalent.  People with food allergies don’t get any food on prescription or any financial support.  Food allergies are particularly common in babies and young children, so this is an issue that affects families when money may be tightest.  We’ve certainly noticed a sharp increase in our food bills since our youngest daughter was born with multiple allergies.  We usually spend £150 – £200 per week for a family of four, with 2 children age 5 and 2.  I can only imagine what this will be when they are teenagers if they don’t grow out of their allergies and intolerances! For me, food is really a high priority for spending, so I try to save money in other areas first, but here are my money saving tips to reduce your food bills:

  1. Avoid ‘Free From’ Foods – they are very expensive and you often only get tiny portions.  Only buy them for the things you really can’t live without, or for special occasions!  Instead buy food that is naturally free from allergens, such as rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, meat and fish (obviously this depends on your individual allergies) – they’re also much healthier for you than processed food.
  2. Stock up on special offers – the best supermarket for special offers on ‘free from’ foods is, without a shadow of a doubt, Ocado (voucher in sidebar>>>).  I often stock up on gluten free sausages, coconut oil, flour, etc whenever I spot them, but also on normal foods – I often fill my freezer with meat!
  3. Plan your meals – I couldn’t live without my meal plan!  I plan out a whole week’s meals in advance, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and do a big shop.  Then I top up with fresh fruit and veg later in the week as needed.  This helps to avoid last minute expensive purchases from convenience stores.  I also find it helps for my sanity if I know in advance what I’m going to cook each night!
  4. Batch cooking – always cook more than you need.  You can use the leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze them and save them as home made ‘ready meals’ for days when you don’t have time to cook.
  5. Make a shopping list and stick to it – once you’ve done your meal plan, use it to make a shopping list and only buy what’s on the list!  I find online shopping is better for avoiding temptation and impulse purchases.
  6. Use what you have – one week a month I try to ‘shop’ from my own kitchen, using up what I already have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards, and only buy fresh bits.
  7. Use cheaper cuts of meat – mince is cheap and versatile, chicken thighs are cheaper than breasts, stewing meat is cheaper but has to be cooked slowly.  You could also try introducing organ meats such as liver which are much, much cheaper and also packed full of nutrients.
  8. Boil your bones – yes I am slightly obsessed with bone broth, but for good reason – it’s free food from something you would normally throw away!  You can use it to make soups, to cook quinoa or rice, or add it to sauces.  It also contains loads of minerals including calcium, which is really important if you’re not eating dairy.
  9. Meat free meals – eating vegetarian meals once in a while can save you a bit of money, as meat is usually the most expensive element in a meal.  My children love sweet potato & butternut squash soup.
  10. Buy local – buying fruit and veg from farm shops, farmer’s markets and veg box schemes can help you to save money, and they’re also better for the environment = win-win!

What are your best money saving tips for food shopping with allergies?