More than half of the food and drinks in my home had soy as an ingredient! I couldn't believe it! I actually sat down on the floor in my pantry and had a good cry!!! All the food I had always eaten and known, was no longer safe or healthy for my child! What to feed him - and me - now??? Since he was still nursing at the time, my diet needed to change too! Not only was his diagnose life changing for him, but for me as well! For the next several days, I remember feeling like I was in a fog about his diagnosis.
At the time I didn't really know any other moms that had children with food allergies. This was a whole new world for me. But as with everything else in my life, once the shock wore off, I dove right into learning everything and anything I could about food allergies - especially the ones my son had. My grocery shopping changed. It took twice as long to shop because I had to read EVERY label to confirm it was soy free, peanut free and dairy free.
My cooking changed. I became a pro at learning what foods could replace the allergy laden ones - and still taste good. And as my child entered the pre-school world, I learned how to prepare and cook allergy-free Kosher food, so that my son could enjoy lunch with his peers at the Jewish preschool he was attending.
The preschool provided Kosher lunch for the children, but most of it he was allergic to. So I would meet once a month with the school chef who would share with me the menu for the month and we would discuss what I could make instead to replace what they were serving, so he could eat lunch with his friends - and it would still be Kosher. Not only did the food I was preparing have to be Kosher, but the items I was using to prepare the food needed to be items that had not been used with non-Kosher food. So I bought new pots and utensils and created an area in my pantry that was exclusively for Kosher only food and items.
Originally, they offered he could bring his own lunch, but if it wasn't Kosher, he would not be allowed to eat it in the classroom with the other students - since only Kosher foods were allowed in the classrooms. He would need to eat it somewhere separate by himself with a teacher assistant. That didn't seem like a good solution. Part of the fun of attending preschool is the socializing the children are able to experience with their friends - especially during snack time and lunch time.
Thank God, the preschool was wonderful in working with me, teaching me about Kosher food and preparation, and my son was able to fully experience lunch with his friends. That experience inspired me to continue on my quest to create and make foods that were allergy-free my son could eat, but would be similar to what his friends were eating.
Then in 2007, my 4th child was diagnosed at 16 months old with food allergies. This was discovered because he had a serious reaction to a food item that had cashews in it. Upon eating this item, he broke out with hives all over his body and face and started throwing up. The next day we took him to the doctor and blood tests were done. One week later it was confirmed that he was allergic to peanut, tree nuts, dairy & gluten.
WOW!!! Here we go again - but this time I handled it MUCH better! Food allergies had been a part of my life for several years at this point, but now I needed to add Gluten and Tree-Nuts to the mix. I didn't miss a beat, and started doing for him, what I had already been doing for his older brother.
One of the many results of having children with food allergies is that I have been making allergy-free snacks for them, so they would feel included with their friends at school and birthday parties. With the support and encouragement from them, family and friends, I have FINALLY decided to start sharing with the rest of the world some of the ALLERGY-FREE snacks my children (and their friends) believe are "delicious." I started a company called "SAFELY DELICIOUS."
These allergen-free snacks have NO GLUTEN, NO DAIRY, NO PEANUT, NO TREE-NUTS, NO SOY, NO EGG. We initially offered two types of snacks - Yummy Bites (made w/ Semi-Sweet Chocolate) AND Yummy Dark Bites (made with Dark Chocolate). These snacks somewhat resemble Muddy Buddies, but are healthier AND allergy-free! We are also currently working on some new allergy-free recipes and hope to have those available in the near future.
My website is www.safelydelicious.com. You can also follow me on Facebook at Safely Delicious; Twitter - @safelydelicious; or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.