This is part three of a four part series. Check back each Friday in March to hear more of Crislyn’s personal story with learning about and handling her son’s severe allergies.
Part 3: Our New Normal (and Favorite Recommendations)
I’ve shared our story and the steps we’ve taken up to this point to conquer some scary food battles, although the war is far from over. We fight small battles everyday in our home, and a lot of it has become so routine, that I don’t even realize it anymore. Whether it’s scanning the ingredient list on the back of a food we eat everyday for the millionth time, washing and re-washing my hands to the point they crack and bleed out of fear of cross-contaminating something, or spending a little (sometimes a lot) more at the grocery store to buy allergy-friendly foods on a regular basis.
There are several “safeguards” in place to help keep our allergic son safe at all times. We ALWAYS carry an Epi Pen (and we did, unfortunately, have to use it once), allergy action plan, and all of our son’s asthma medications with us whenever we leave the house. So if you ever see us out and about and wonder why we always have an extra backpack on hand, there’s your answer! We even take that badboy with us when we go for a walk to the park or make a quick run into a restaurant to eat.
Speaking of restaurants, I thought it might be helpful to list some of our favorite allergy-friendly restaurants for any other families dealing with food allergies. This list is not exhaustive, but all of them have very easy to find allergen menus online (and usually in stores). Our main culprits are wheat, tree nuts, and peanuts, so we usually look for gluten free (GF) and nut free when we go out to eat. Here our top family favorites:
- Chick Fil A (grilled nuggets are GF, French fries are not fried in peanut oil, and they have many other “safe options”)
- Qdoba (nearly everything on their menu is GF & nut free, and since you can “build your own meal” you can adjust for other food allergies and/or sensitivies as well)
- Jason’s Deli (they offer a GF bread option, as well as a wonderful salad bar (as with any “buffet-style”, beware of cross contamination). Our son loves their baked potatoes.)
- Charleston’s (they now offer a GF menu as well)
- Top That! Pizza (their GF pizza is one of the best I’ve tried!)
- Pei Wei (they have a great new GF menu, and are great about keeping foods from getting cross-contaminated as well)
- Alfredo’s Mexican Café (they offer a GF menu, and everything in their setup is safe for him except the flour tortillas, which we sub for corn tortillas)
- Ted’s Café Escondido (their managers and waitstaff are wonderful at providing allergy information, explaining safe options, and making special orders if needed)
- Hideaway Pizza (they have a GF pizza that is great, and most of their salads (excluding croutons) are safe too.)
- Pop’s (they offer a GF bun, and most of their shakes and fries are safe too (although they are fried in the same fryer as other “breaded” items, which always makes me a little nervous)
As with any restaurant, it is always a good idea to double check and make sure what you are ordering is free of any potential unsafe food. I still look at the allergen menus every time we go somewhere, often ask the waiter (and/or manager) questions if I’m unclear on something, and wipe down the table again where our son will be sitting. Sometimes he breaks out in a rash on his arms just from resting them on the table where an allergic food has previously been. And there are rare occasions when I simply decide that it’s safer just to pack him his own food and let him eat something that I KNOW is safe instead of risk it when we are out to eat.
More commonly we eat at home. Aside from the extra dishes and separate areas in our pantry and refrigerator assigned as “safe” foods, eating at home offers the convenience and comfort of knowing for sure that what he’s getting is safe. I pack his lunch when he goes to a mother’s day out twice a week, and always give his teachers (or anyone else watching him while I’m not there) specific instructions on what he can and cannot eat, where his Epi pen is, etc. For anyone interested, here are some of our favorite “allergy-friendly” brands:
- Udi’s Gluten Free (GF) breads, buns, muffins
- Van’s GF waffles & french toast sticks
- Ian’s GF chicken nuggets & fish sticks
- Amy’s Organic GF mac & cheese and cookies
- Tyson GF chicken nuggets
- Tinkyada GF pasta (This is the best GF option I’ve found for maintaining a texture similar to regular pasta, which is especially important if you’re using cooked pasta in a recipe, like lasagna)
- Barilla GF pasta (This is relatively new on the market, but it tastes just like the regular pasta. My family can’t tell the difference!)
- Enjoy Life baking products & snack bars
- Glutino cereal bars
- Chex cereal (excluding Wheat & Honey Wheat, of course)
**A lot of cereals are GF, actually, you just have to read the labels carefully.
As much as I try to avoid certain foods, there are instances when it’s just not possible. I usually always call ahead when taking him to a birthday party or meal at someone else’s house so I can try and take similar snacks that will be safe for him. I also try to make and freeze cupcakes every now and then, so that at any given time I can pop one out of the freezer to take to a birthday party or something. I also try to keep a couple safe snacks in my purse at all times.
As parents of a preschooler with food allergies, my husband and I have learned that keeping our son safe is primarily up to us. We have to plan ahead, educate teachers and sitters, and advocate for him whenever possible. As he gets older though and is away from us for longer periods of time, it will become increasingly important for him to be able to keep himself safe as well. We have an ongoing conversation with him about what foods are safe and what foods aren’t, and there are a couple great children’s books on allergies that he LOVES to read. Two of his favorites are:
Like I said earlier, food allergies are and always will be an ongoing battle that we have to fight. Having good resources, innovative & attentive doctors, supportive family & friends, and an ever-increasing knowledge base about all the “allergy-friendly” options out there has helped us tremendously though in keeping it all manageable. And our sweet little boy is growing, healthy, and as full of energy as you have ever seen!
Hi! My name is Crislyn and I live in Edmond with my little family of 4, which includes my sweet husband, Sam, and our two little people: Wyatt (age 3) and Emery (10 months). I worked at Oklahoma Christian University until our daughter was born in April of 2013, and have been enjoying my time as a stay at home mom since then. Our son was diagnosed with food allergies at 8 months, so that is something that not only infiltrates every part of our lives, but that I’m very passionate about as well. We love spending time together, playing with friends, worshipping at our local church, and exploring everything “family friendly” that the OKC metro area has to offer. Thanks so much for letting me share a little bit of our life with you!