Please don’t be alarmed. My three-year-old daughter has NEVER actually been allergic to peanut butter, she just doesn’t want to eat the stuff. Or almond butter, for that matter. (NEVER EVER feed a kid even the slightest trace of something they are allergic to—strict avoidance of even tiny trace amounts of contamination at all times is the only safe route here. Even a tiny trace amount could be deadly. Just making clear.).
My daughter IS super life-threateningly allergic to walnuts, pistachios, pecans and cashews. That’s the weird part about tree nut allergy — you can be allergic to all, or just some. I’m still wrapping my head around that.
Unfortunately, she has to eat a good amount of (non-cross-contaminated) peanuts and almonds in some form. Every week. For the indefinite future forever and ever. To keep her safe and to prevent her from developing brand-NEW allergies to them in the first place.
And I have to say it has not been easy. I used to wish sometimes that almonds and peanuts would just disappear—from restaurants, supermarkets, the entire planet. Now I have to actively seek them out for my kid.
Let me back up a little. When we first found out the hard way (anaphylaxis/911 call/ambulance/ER/EpiPen) that our daughter had severe food allergies, she was nine months old. Her allergist did skin and blood tests to narrow down the culprits. Many things came back positive and had to go onto version one of our “strictly avoid” list: peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, eggs, milk, shrimp, mustard and coconut.
However, the allergist explained that although these tests have low rates of false negatives, they have high rates of false positives. In other words—testing negative to a food probably means it’s safe (hurrah!) but testing positive to a food doesn’t mean it’s definitely dangerous (huh?!) Plus: our daughter MIGHT eventually even outgrow a FEW (but probably not ALL) of her allergies.
So every six months to a year, we make a hopeful journey up to the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute in Manhattan for updated tests to see if we might qualify for carefully controlled in-office food challenges to bring some new foods into her diet (and our apartment).
Which brings me back to hiding peanut butter and almond butter in her waffles.
Our daughter has failed two in-office baked milk food allergy challenges and a baked egg challenge. And she outright refused to eat clams for a clam challenge.
BUT she passed her peanut, almond, coconut and shrimp challenges with flying not-allergic colors. (It wasn’t that she outgrew them, either—based on her test results over time, the allergist told us the initial results were likely false positives). Which was all very exciting, and my husband couldn’t wait to get shrimp and almonds back in our kitchen again. I was psyched for coconut.
But we were then told that to safely maintain her tolerance to these foods, she needs to eat them frequently—ideally once a week.
Problem is, our daughter had already developed a very serious loyalty to sunflower seed butter. She wants to eat it ALL the time—for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, whenever. She wants her Sunbutter and jammy sandwiches (on homemade whole wheat bread) for lunch. If she doesn’t like the dinner we cooked, she wants it for dinner (“Mommy, can I have a Sunbutter and jammy sandwich, PLEASE?”).
And no matter how much she’s eaten in a given day, she pops out of her bedroom almost every night at 9:30 p.m. asking “Mommy, can I please have some apples and sunflower butter?”:
When we try to give her peanut butter or almond butter in her sandwiches (even mixed in with the Sunbutter) she immediately spits it out or refuses to eat it. And as many times as we’ve tried to explain that no, she ISN’T allergic to peanuts like her cousin or that girl in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, she still always lists peanuts as one of her allergies.
I don’t blame her. We spent months telling her over and over again that peanuts and almonds were deadly, scary, NO, BAD, AVOID, YUCK, SCARY, stay away. Now we’re trying to explain (to a three-year-old): almonds and peanuts are fine (if they’re not cross-contaminated). Walnuts are bad. And pistachios are the worst. Also: pecans and cashews are TERRIBLE. Sesame seeds–stay away! (Sunflower seeds: OK if we order them special!) Cow/sheep/goat milk: bad. (Oat milk: good, if it’s our safe brand). Is your head spinning yet?
And honestly, I still feel butterflies in my stomach whenever I feed anything peanuty to her, given the peanut’s food-allergy reputation. I even feel bad on behalf of kids who DO have peanut allergy, like I’m someone cheating on the food-allergy community. (What if a friend with peanut allergy came over? Now our house is cross-contaminated.)
And hidden allergens in food? That just feels WRONG. Hidden allergens are the reason we never, ever EVER eat in restaurants. Who knows what sauce od dessert might have hidden nuts in it? What breads might have hidden egg or butter washes or unseen fragments of sesame… what dishes have a little sesame oil. Why do nuts (and peanuts, for those who are allergic) have to hide EVERYWHERE?
But my nut-allergic kid needs to eat peanuts and almonds for her safety. Deep breath!
And so, for now, we are stuck trying to find ways to hide them. In pancakes. In cookies. In homemade faux-tella chocolate spread… And most especially in waffles:
She ate four of these last night.
Anyone else in the same nutty boat? I swear I’m in the Twilight Zone here…
(Also: just to be clear again… kids with allergies must STRICTLY avoid the foods they are allergic to, at all times. I’m NOT feeding her something she is even slightly allergic to. Instead, I’m feeding her items she has NEVER been allergic to, in order to make sure she doesn’t BECOME allergic to them. If that makes sense!)