Almost a full year ago, I came home from our new allergist appointment with Max and I looked around my kitchen and thought, “Oh my god, all food is poison.”
Up until that point, I had my suspicions that Max had quite a few food allergies, but they had never been laid out as point blank as they were that day.
Max was and still is allergic to wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, milk, and soy.
Everything felt contaminated. The kitchen counter, the sink, all of my pots and pans that I had ever cooked with. Standing in front of my pantry, I could only see the shelf of pasta and flour. The condensed milk next to the blue boxes of macaroni and cheese that my 4 year is still obsessed with. The giant Costco size jug of powdered peanut butter literally loomed over me.
When Max told me he was hungry and wanted dinner, I nearly cried.
If I don’t work on it, I can sometimes let my anxiety get the better of me. And that day, my anxiety got the better of me.
I pulled it together enough to make a very simple dinner of rice and a microwaved chicken sausage with a handful of blueberries on the side. He grazed as much as any two year old would and then snuggled down to nurse.
For anyone who is dealing with a new diagnosis of food allergies, here is some words of advice that I wish someone had shared with me that first night.
- Don’t panic. Seriously, don’t panic. Take a minute. Drink some tea or wine. And take a short break.
- Give yourself some credit: Until this moment, until this day, your child has been eating something and surviving. That wasn’t an accident. Looking back, I had already removed a lot of the foods that Max was allergic to before we even made it to the allergist. And for that, I wish I could have been gentler with myself instead of feeling guilty for things I didn’t know and couldn’t control.
- You can’t transform your kitchen overnight. Seriously I tried. I put Max to bed and started scrubbing the kitchen down. I stood in my pantry determined to throw out anything that could cause any type of reaction. I got halfway through a shelf before I realized that I was just blindly reacting and that I needed to make a plan.
- Communicate with your family and caregivers: After my husband dragged me away from the pantry, we made a very simple temporary plan to manage a shared kitchen to prevent cross contamination.
- We had to make cleaning up after ourselves in the kitchen a priority. Bare minimum, all dishes had to get into the sink.
- I used duct tape and marked all of Max’s pre-approved foods – his cookies, snacks, and pantry staples were labeled so that I could quickly grab his stuff without panicking over mistakes.
- We made a very simple meal plan – He was 2. He didn’t need anything fancy. We ate rice and baked chicken. It was fine.
- We used one counter to prep Max’s meals – an allergy free zone.
It’s been over a year and we’ve made a lot of progress as we started to understand how our family best eats together and where we make our allowances.
Now that Max is weaned, I keep coffee creamer in the fridge for me. I buy yogurt cups for my daughter and send them with her to school. I don’t panic nearly as much (but as a mom, you always worry.)
Our diet is more varied, but still isn’t impressive enough to fill up a cookbook by any means. But I think that’s normal with a picker preschooler and kindergartener. We still eat tons of rice and chicken, but now we have expanded to roasted vegetables, lots of soups and chilis and plenty of fruit. Max is a fan of tacos and guacamole.
Are you dealing with food allergies? What do you eat? Leave me a comment.