“So what CAN your kid even eat, anyway?”
I get this question a lot when I rattle off my daughter’s growing list of food allergies: sesame, nuts, milk, eggs, mustard (and now peanuts, peas, cumin and paprika.)
And the short answer is: Pretty much nothing… from a restaurant or bakery. And relatively few… processed food items.
But right now, the long answer to what she ACTUALLY eats—at home—is still: almost ANYTHING she and I can dream up. It can be easy to feel down about the foods that are off limits, but as my husband reminds me, we are very lucky that there are SO many more things she can eat than things she can’t. (And if she does develop more allergies and lose some more currently safe foods, what then? We’ll just keep being as creative as we can and make do with whatever she can eat.)
So please don’t feel sorry for my daughter just because she can’t eat at McDonald’s or our local Thai restaurant—she is eating some truly delicious and often quite healthy food (in her words: “yummy.”)
She can eat almost any VEGETABLE (barring mustard greens) and many LEGUMES (except peanuts and peas). She especially loves broccoli, chickpeas, cannellini beans, kale, brussels sprouts, corn, black beans, edamame, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. She also eats, but is somewhat less enthusiastic about, cucumbers, spinach, garlic and onions. She likes her vegetables steamed, sauteed, or cut into fun shapes, but not with spices or seasoning (and who can blame her, since she has had multiple allergic reactions to spices?) She is NOT a fan of mushrooms.
She can eat any FRUIT her little heart desires. Apples, berries, bananas, peaches, pears, mangoes, watermelon, oranges, cantaloupe—she’s never reacted to any of them. She especially likes apples cut up with SunButter or made into fruit leather, or her grandmother’s homemade peach jam, or sometimes applesauce.
She can eat GRAINS and PASTA and HOME-BAKED goods. Oatmeal, grits, polenta, quinoa, wheat, buckwheat, spelt, rye, rice, corn—she’s OK with them all at this point. Muffins and scones and bread and sandwiches and toast and tortillas and pancakes and waffles and sourdough rye and biscuits and cupcakes and double chocolate cookies and pasta and noodles and dumplings… as long as they’re all homemade with safer ingredients.
She can have NON-DAIRY milks and creams and yogurts and frozen desserts. Oat milk, coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, even almond milk (her one safe tree nut), plain or even made into hot chocolate. Soy yogurt and coconut yogurt. Soy frozen desserts and coconut frozen desserts. Non-dairy vegan buttery spreads. Nutritional yeast-based “cheese” sauces. We’re not sure anymore about shreds or slices non-dairy cheeses (all her favorite melty faux cheese brands had pea protein) but we think there might be a few she can have… and I can always try making some.
She can have whole MEATS and POULTRY and FISH and SHELLFISH. I do try to minimize these items and only get organic or from the farmer’s market, and I don’t eat much of this myself these days… but give the restrictions of her diet, I’m not entirely taking away her beloved bacon, chicken, turkey, lamb, salmon or tilapia, and she is supposed to eat shrimp regularly since passing her in-office shrimp food challenge.
So what does my daughter eat when you put all those things together? She eats nut-free and dairy-free chocolate spread and blackberry jam on homemade toasted whole-wheat sourdough:
Sesame-free, egg-free and nut-free stir-fries and dumplings (though in future, we’ll replace the snowpeas with other veggies):
Homemade butternut squash ravioli with nut-free pesto (here she is making some):
Thin-crust broiler pizza (once we settle on a new non-dairy cheese without any pea protein in it, and of course without all these peas on it… I am SO cringing to think about all the peas I was trying to give her even as she was starting to reject them):
Vietnamese-inspired banh mi sandwiches:
And even an egg-free, nut-free, peanut-free and sesame-free Pad Thai-like concoction with rice noodles (again–no more peas next time!):
Of course, many nights we just heat up leftovers, eat sandwiches, or toss together some safe pasta, safe sauce and safe veggies for an exhausted work night diner:
She can even eat falafel with fauxhini sauce on homemade pita bread.
And of course last night, as tired and anxious as I am since her anaphylactic reaction, I felt a serious need to make sushi rolls when I got home from work. The joy of watching her wolf down rolls she could never eat in a sesame-and-nut-and-egg-filled sushi restaurant made it all worth it, even if we didn’t end up eating until 8 p.m. They turned out lopsided, but still super tasty.
Life without delicious Brooklyn takeout doesn’t have to mean life without delicious takeout-style food.
So, for a moment, let’s forget what our kids CAN’T eat–what are some of their favorite foods they CAN eat? (or if they have no foods, their favorite non-food special treat?)