I've gone dairy free. And soy free. And wheat, nut, corn and egg free.
Nope, I'm not on some crazy fad diet. When Cian was 2 months old, we found out that there was a possibility that he was allergic - or at least extremely sensitive- to milk.
When we went to the pediatrician for his 2 month well visit, I raised concerns about eczema that had started to show up all over his face and abdomen, sometimes accompanied by swollen eyes. Immediately it was suggested that I try eliminating all dairy from my diet in an effort to see if he had a milk protein allergy. At the time, this wasn't such a big deal. After all, what mom wouldn't do what she can to help her child feel better?
A week later the eczema had improved but not completely disappeared. Worryingly, Cian now had green mucousy stools two days in a row, so I brought him back to the pediatrician.
"It's best to cut out all soy products too", I was told. Apparently many infants who are allergic to the cow's milk protein are also allergic to soy. Again, I did what I needed to, knowing the next stage after mucous would be blood. We couldn't let that happen.
After doing some research, I realized that Cian was lucky with the minimal symptoms he did have. Many infants' allergic reactions are much more bothersome (apart from scratching his skin, Cian wasn't the least bit fussy at any point). These reactions can include extreme fussiness, reflux, diarrhea, projectile vomiting and hives. None of which he had, thank God.
It was around this time that I started to keep a food diary to see what (if any) other foods would trigger his symptoms. After a couple of weeks, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and corn were also added to the list of allergens - and the growing list of foods that I could not consume.
Have you ever tried grocery shopping with THAT many ingredients eliminated from your diet? The first few trips were both exhausting and frustrating. However, I have learned so much over the past 3 months about what is in the food we eat and how to replace common food allergens. I am now armed with a wealth of information that I want to share!
While such an extreme elimination diet is not for everyone (trust me, I wouldn't blame you if you're going through this and decide to switch to formula!), I really want to continue to breastfeed for as long as I possibly can. For me, the benefits of nursing far exceed my desire to eat whatever I want. Also, breast feeding has, luckily, come so easy to me (and Cian) that I know I have to stick with it for as long as I can sustain such a restricted diet, and remain healthy.
If you are currently going through this same crazy diet, or the pediatrician has suggested you try it, the first thing I urge you to do is see a nutritionist. I only recently did this (after 3 months of the diet) and learned that I am not consuming enough protein and getting enough calcium or magnesium (which I was already deficient in post-baby). Secondly, please know that if you decide to go down this route with your child that it is not easy but it's also not a death sentence. You will be full. You will be satiated. You will not wither away! This diet does require a lot of research and time reading ingredients at the supermarket. You will give most of your paycheck to Whole Foods. You may be able to reintroduce foods in a month or two or have to stay on the diet until your child weans. In the long run, when your child is happy and healthy, you will glad you did it!
Anywho, today I want to share you with some of my favorite allergy-friendly recipes as well as some tips and products that I've learned about over the past few months. One of my absolute saviors has been this book: Allergy Free & Easy Cooking by Cybele Pascal (affiliate link). It has many yummy meals that can be made in 30 minutes that don't contain gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and sesame. Who has the time to spend hours slaving over the stove when you have a little one that wants your undivided attention. Not me, that's for sure. Buy it and it will make meal planning a whole lot easier.
First up I want to share with you some of the ingredient/food replacements that I've discovered. I'm sure there are plenty more out there but these are the ones I use and approve of!
(All products mentioned available at Whole Foods . Affiliate links are including for your convenience.)
- Earth Balance vegan butter (I use the soy-free one - it's really good for toast AND baking!)
- All purpose flour:
- Wheat Bread:
- Eggs when baking:
- 1 tablespoon of Flaxmeal + 3 tablespoons of water (per egg). Use warm water or put in the microwave for 30 seconds until it becomes gelatinous.
- Breakfast Cereal:
- Coconut milk (my preferred choice)
- Rice milk
- Sorbet (I have to double check that it doesn't include corn syrup). This is also a good option if you decide to go out to a restaurant.
- Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Mix (Some of the best box brownies I've ever had!)
- Soy Sauce:
- Coconut Aminos - soy free seasoning sauce. I like to have sushi on the weekends so finding a soy sauce replacement was very necessary! This is also great for making vegetable stir-fries.
- Most brown rice pastas work. My favorite brand is Tinkyada Pasta Joy. Theirs has by far the best texture, it's not gummy like some others.
- Sandwich Filings:
- Whole Foods sells turkey and ham that are free of lactic acid and other allergens.
- Replace peanut butter with sunflower butter (or almond if nuts are a non-issue)
- If you like jam, read the ingredients carefully. Many brands contain wheat.
- Daiya do a decent vegan "cheese". Although, I can only tolerate it on their vegan, gluten-free pizza (the base is AWFULLY gummy, you'd do a better job making your own). A lot of these cheese products are made with pea protein, which my son is also allergic to, so be aware of that.
- Avocado makes for a creamy filling and is full of healthy fats.
- You can buy "vegenaise" a vegan mayo. I haven't tried it though, the thought kind of freaks me out :-/
Some other tips: I know I mentioned reading labels carefully but this is SO important. Dairy-free does not just mean removing milk, butter and cheese from your diet. Milk products are found everywhere, including deli meats! Please consult this list for other ingredients to look out for.
Here's a pinnable graphic so that you can easily come back to this list at any time:
OK, so now how about some of my favorite dinner recipes? Keep in mind, dinner is probably the easier of the 3 meals to make allergy-free. All you need is meat, a starch and a vegetable for a well-rounded meal. Most nights I have steak/pork/chicken plus potato/rice and a vegetable. Quick and easy!
I've also been making Turkey Chili Mac (recipe!) and Turkey Meatloaf which have both been a big hit with my husband.
Deserts are not out of the question, either. For Easter, I made this delicious carrot cake.
I even made the vegan cream cheese frosting. It was TO-DIE for! I highly recommend this recipe even if you don't have allergy concerns!
Now that it's hot and I'm craving something cold and sweet, I've discovered Nestle Outshine Fruit Bars. There's no artificial crap in them (so you can feel good giving them to your kids!) and no high-fructose corn syrup. I've only tried the strawberry flavor so far, but it was YUM!
I'd love to hear from anyone else who is currently/has gone through this elimination diet. How quickly did your child grow out of their allergies? I have tried reintroducing each food at one point or another and Cian is still reacting (although not as severely). Please share all your wisdom and food suggestions with me!!
Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.
**Update: At 12 months Cian is free of all allergies except for dairy. He is now successfully drinking 24oz of soy milk a day! While his dairy allergies have improved, he is still allergic. Our GI is hopeful that dairy will not be an issue by the time he's 3 at the latest. Fingers crossed!!