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5 Blessings Revealed with a Food Allergy Diagnosis

You may have read the title of this post and thought, "how are there blessings with a food allergy diagnosis!" and when we were first diagnosed, I would have totally agreed.


But having managed our kids' food allergies now for almost eight years, I have come to change my mindset and outlook on this diagnosis and have chosen to look at the positive side. Sure, there are also many fears and anxieties that also come with food allergies (way more than five), but fixating on those don't support anything. It's taken me a long to realize that there is so much that is out of my control, so I choose now to focus on what is.


So after almost eight years of managing food allergies, these are just a few of the blessings that have been revealed to us.


1. Healthier Food Choices


This first blessing is two-fold: Making healthier food choices and being able to find more food alternatives.


One of the first questions that usually goes through the mind of someone diagnosed with food allergies is: What am I going to eat (or in our case, feed them)?


Charlotte (Charlie) was diagnosed with milk, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts, and while we didn't eat a lot of nuts or peanut butter, we sure did like dairy and eggs. I had to eliminate all of these from my diet while I continued to breastfeed her, but when it came to introducing her to table food, that was a new ballgame.


When you've been living one lifestyle and used to cooking with certain foods, it can be difficult to shift and seek out the alternatives, but that's exactly what we did. And it turns out that our limitations have actually given us much healthier meal options that we may not have otherwise been eating as often.


Not only has it allowed us to cook healthier food, but also to use better ingredients. An essential part of food allergies is learning to read food labels. Once you start doing that, you may start to question certain foods, even if you don't have a food allergy! It's crazy how many ingredients something simple can have. I've found that a lot of our alternatives are pretty healthy and have way less ingredients. Check labels next time you're grocery shopping and see what you're eating!


Here's an example of a great alternative.


We also keep our cooking simple and try to stick to one protein (usually chicken, pork, or beef), one vegetable (our kids love vegetables), and one grain (usually rice). For breakfast, I swap out the vegetable for fruit and for lunch I give both.


But don't get me wrong; we definitely eat some not-so-healthy food and enjoy homemade sweets around here a lot, but overall, we eat a pretty simple and balanced diet.


The second blessing in this is that there are a lot more options for food alternatives than even 5-10 years ago. When Charlie was transitioning from breastmilk to non-dairy, our only options were rice and soy milk. Now there are many more options and flavors (Planet Oat Dark Chocolate is our son's favorite). The same goes for many products. There are so many allergy-friendly food brands and options that are a blessing when trying to find on-the-go snacks and alternatives for cooking.


2. More Family Dinners


I grew up eating dinner with my family almost every night, even with a busy sports schedule as I got older. Now, it wasn't maybe everyone at the table all the time, but for the most part, we always had dinner together.


We've continued the same tradition in our home and it's been something that I believe has come easier with having food allergies and the necessity to cook at home. Even as Charlie and her brother have started after-school activities and sports, we still make it a point to cook and eat dinner together - even if it's a little faster than usual. We just plan our meals accordingly if we're not going to have as much time so that it's ready quickly.


Do we go out to eat? Yes, but not often. It can get expensive and there is definitely a whole other level of trust and awareness when you go out to eat with food allergies. So we do it occasionally and usually stick to restaurants we've been to before and eaten at safely. One of our family favorites is a Jethro's BBQ. They have multiple locations around town and it's Charlie's favorite.


Family dinner is also a great time for us to share how our day went. We do peaks, pits, and what we're grateful for. Peak = something good that happened, pit = something that maybe didn't go as planned or threw us off, and then share something we're grateful for.


Teaching My Kids to Cook


I feel learning how to cook is an important life skill, regardless of whether it's more of a necessity or not. I never really had an appetite (see what I did there!) for cooking growing up, but I did like to bake. I could make a mean macaroni and cheese and could make spaghetti, but that was about it. My mom will admit that cooking was also never something that she enjoyed. So we didn't grow up really learning how to cook many things (and I didn't really put any effort into learning). And this isn't to say my mom didn't make some delicious dinners, because she did.


My older brother and I used to joke that our house was more like a convenience store when it came to food. A lot of easy, grab and go snacks and meals (and not always the healthiest).


My husband on the other hand grew up on a farm and much of his food was homemade so making everything from scratch wasn't new to him.


Since Charlie's diagnosis, we've had to cook and bake a lot from scratch and it's not only taught me to enjoy cooking more and learn from my husband, but Charlie has picked up on it as well and the kids enjoy helping in the kitchen (mostly making messes).


For instance, Charlie came down one morning and started making waffle batter all my herself. She knows what her safe ingredients are and she pulls up the recipe on Alexa and does her thing. She even enjoys using the waffle iron and being in charge! That was not me at the age of seven!



I'm not sure if this would be the case if we didn't manage food allergies and cook as much as we do. The kitchen is the heart of the home and that's definitely true for us. It's also where we spend most of our time. Being able to teach the kids how to cook and bake not only to keep themself safe, but to also encourage their independence has been an incredible blessing.


4. General Awareness of Others' Needs


Managing our kids' food allergies has also heightened our awareness of the needs of others. Both my brothers were diagnosed with food allergies, so I knew about them, but didn't pay much attention as they self-managed really well and it really wasn't discussed much at home.


It wasn't until we had kids that we realized how prevalent food allergies were. Before, I never would have even thought about it, but now my first instinct is to ask other parents if things are safe or okay for their children. And while it's been heightened because of food allergies and I ask about those, I'm also considering other needs such as sensory and auditory concerns, diabetes, and other challenges that children may be facing that I can support.


5. More Empathy and Compassion


It can be easy to get into the comparison game and look at others and think "Wow, wouldn't it be easier if we could just go out to eat without worrying."


We've also been told often, "I don't know how you do it."


Well, here's the thing. This wasn't a choice. Anyone put into the same situation would also figure it out and determine a way forward. Think of all the times in your life something happened that was out of your control where you've had to accept and move on. You just do it.


Sure, there are many people who may have some aspects of their life that look easier, but no one knows everyone's full story. Challenges come in so many variations - some easily visible and others not. And guess what, there are a lot of people who have it a lot harder. When you look at a situation from a place of gratitude for what you do have rather than what you don't, it's much easier to show empathy, compassion, and learn acceptance.


This is how we choose to view it. We are so grateful that we have children that are overall healthy and capable of anything any other child can do. In some cases they just have to do things a little differently. They are able to walk, run, talk, jump, get themselves dressed, eat by themselves, play with other children, read, and so much more. Not everyone has all of these abilities.


So while I believe that I've always had a good amount of empathy and compassion for others, I feel that it's grown immensely since managing our kids' food allergies.



So there you have it! Just a few of the unexpected blessings that we've experienced through managing food allergies. What about you? Have you experienced blessings managing a medical condition or from an unexpected experience in your life? I'd love to hear about it.



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