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Friday, May 13, 2016

My Favorite (Allergy Friendly) Things

Hand in hand with my post earlier this week looking at silver linings of food allergies, we've discovered a world of products and companies that are sensitive to the needs of individuals with allergies.  They've become such staples in our household and in our daily lives that even if my son outgrows his multiple food allergies, they're likely to stay a part of our regular purchasing habits for as long as they continue to hold high standards for safety.

Obviously, manufacturing practices change all the time.  Several foods and products that were once safe for us have had to move to new facilities, change ingredients, or are no longer made at all, so it's important to do your own due diligence regularly and make sure a product continues to be safe and check ingredients every single time.

Food products that we've discovered since my son's diagnosis (allergy to Wheat, Egg, Soy, Tree Nuts, Peanuts, Coconut.) that have become a staple for us include:

  • Cup4Cup Multi Purpose Flour  the same wheat-free flour blend used in Thomas Keller's kitchens. You can use it cup for cup as a substitute for regular flour - hence its name.
  • Tinkyada White Rice Spaghetti the texture is the closest I've found to wheat pastas, and unlike the brown rice or corn versions of wheat-free pastas, there's no lingering flavor to the pasta.
  • California Foods Pizza Crusts we can make our own pizzas quick and easy - similar to flatbreads and you don't miss the wheat!
  • Sensitive Sweets Everything well almost everything, sometimes they have lemon bars which carry a "contains egg" warning, but this is the only place I've found a wheat-free, egg-free, soy-free. nut-free bread that doesn't taste like cardboard.
  • Just Mayo my son actually doesn't eat mayo of any kind, but I can't eat a sandwich without it.  This egg-free, soy-free, dairy-free, mayo alternative tastes just as good as the real thing and it doesn't upset my stomach the way Veganaise seems to do.  The only thing is that like many vegan substitutes, this contains pea protein, which is a legume, which may mean it will become obsolete for us if my son ends up testing positive for pea allergy.
  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips my son actually has never had chocolate - he was 14 months old when he went to the hospital for anaphylaxis and since then new food introductions are done with caution.  Chocolate - while delicious - is a low priority food and he'll get around to tasting eventually, but for now these chocolate chips are ALL FOR ME.  It's how I make my hot chocolate during the holidays and what I put in my "muffins" when I'm making a batch of allergy safe muffins for O.  I think they taste even better than the chocolate chips I used to buy, and these are Top 8 allergy free!
  • Kettle Brand Potato Chips everyone needs a junk food break now and then.  Their unsalted potato chips are one of O's favorites.
  • Erewhorn Crispy Rice Cereal a basic cereal free of dairy, wheat, peanuts, and soy - and they say so right on the front of the box.
  • Lundberg Family Farms Rice because wheat, rye, and barley in any form are out for us, we end up eating a lot more rice, rice flours, and rice cereals.  This can be worrisome because of the high levels of arsenic found in a lot of rice.  I do my best to try and make sure every product we use that contains rice is already testing for arsenic levels, but it can be tough to track down that information on top of manufacturing information.  This company is proactive about the levels of arsenic in their rice and tests regularly which makes me feel better about eating rice as often as we do. 
Non food items are just as important to us. Contact reactions are a real thing - in fact, we first suspected our son had a coconut allergy after we put coconut oil on his cradle cap (as advised by his pediatrician) only to discover his head was covered in open, weepy blisters the next day. That led to me investigating coconut derived ingredients and realizing there was a good chance we'd have to replace a lot of what we had been using around the house and in our bath products.
  •  Real Purity Natural & Gentle Baby Shampoo was sort of a game changer for me. After I found this, I felt like I really could find products free of my son's allergens and with only seven ingredients I wondered why his old baby shampoos needed so many more ingredients.
  • Allens Naturally we started with just the laundry detergent for my son's clothes.  Before we knew it, we were washing all of our things with this and buying several other cleaning products in their line including multi purpose cleaners and dish washing soaps.  It was formulated for people with multiple chemical sensitivities, and while each product's ingredient list is short and easy to read, they get the job done just as well - if not better - than the products we used before.  After a few washes with the laundry detergent, we were able to ditch fabric softener altogether and our clothes still came out soft and fluffy.
  • Badger Baby Products especially their sunscreen and baby balm.  I even use it on myself!
I also love finding recipes that are by their very nature free of our allergens.  I'm used to subbing out as needed for old standby classics, but finding a recipe that is tried and true and requires no substitution is like gold to me.  The Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pot Roast and her Chunky Chicken Soup are Top 8 free and are in regular rotation in our home.  I quadruple Marcella Hazan's Tomato Marinara and store it in our freezer for quick meals, and this Cuban Fluffy White Rice gets made in our home almost every night of the week as an easy side dish.

A big honorable mention goes to Chipotle - the only place we're ever able to "cheat" and order takeout when we're with my son.  He doesn't really eat anything there beyond their chips and rice (everything else is still too "spicy" for his tastes) but Chipotle is huge among multiple food allergy families. Chipotle is clear about all their ingredients and provide a simple to read allergen chart.  I honestly had never eaten at a Chipotle until my son was diagnosed and now I am so grateful they exist.  Of course, there is always room for human error and last year's devastating series of food-borne illness outbreaks meant we didn't eat there for several months, but for our family, being able to cook a basic meal for my son without stressing about what we'll end up eating is nice on busy or difficult days and I trust that Chipotle is taking massive steps to make sure those kinds of outbreaks don't ever happen again.

It's possible some of these things will fall out of favor if they change practices or manufacturing, but for now I'm so glad they exist and helped make the adjustment to life with multiple food allergies a little easier.

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