Our family was thrown into the frustrating food allergy world when my son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy as a baby. His sister's followed when she turned three. First the allergy tests — pricking skin and taking blood — followed by results that still leave parents asking questions. From the abundance of food allergy studies and research being conducted, the only conclusion this parent can draw is that even the experts don't quite know what to conclude.
So we plug along. Carrying Epi-pens, reading labels and keeping up to date on the latest findings.
As I baked yet another batch of homemade cupcakes for my daughter's birthday celebration at school, I wondered about any positive aspects her allergy has brought into our home. Not only did I think of one, I found five. For any parents living with food allergies — and even those who aren't — it's amazing what you discover when you have no choice but to do so.
Less processed foods
For this mom, homemade cupcakes used to mean those made from a box instead of bought at a bakery. But I found a recipe for true homemade vanilla cupcakes that's easy and delicious. And while a cupcake is never good for you, certainly one made from flour, eggs, sugar and butter is better than one containing xanthan gum and polysorbate 60? When you buy boxed you buy processed. Because I'm making more homemade items, my family's intake of processed treats has dropped.
More adventures in the kitchen
I'm the mom who can barely boil spaghetti. But give me a dessert recipe and I'll tackle it with open arms. Because so many treats contain trace amounts of peanuts or are made on equipment manufacturing peanut products, I've taken some risks in the kitchen that turned out really good. So while the spaghetti may still be a bit chewy, the snicker doodle cookies are delicious!
Who doesn't have a box of Hershey's®Cocoa sitting in their pantry? Have you ever noticed the recipes on the side of the box? Brownies, frosting, even chocolate cake. Your pantry likely contains the other necessary ingredients. The next time you want to purchase the cake and brownie box mixes along with the tub of ready-made frosting, tuck away those dollars and raid your pantry instead.
Parents of kids with food allergies are avid label readers. Not only do we have the scoop on food allergens, but we're also well-versed in other hidden ingredients. You'd be amazed how much salt you find in sweetened cereals or how much sugar you find in — everything! Consumers are becoming hip to the idea of label reading. Parents with food allergies in the house have been doing it for a while.
My kids' involvement in making desserts extends beyond licking the bowl clean. My daughter's become an expert egg-cracker and my son is realizing the importance of fractions in the real world. We're spending time together, and creating memories and tasty treats in the process. And yes, I still let them lick the bowl afterward.
Like other parents, I'll rejoice when researchers find a cause, cure or vaccination for food allergies. Until then, however, I'm focused on the nuances, not the nuisances, of raising a child who has one.