Being a parent is the most natural thing in the world, some would say.
Until you realise that something with your baby isn’t ‘normal’ within their little body.
Parenting and being a mum is a hard gig, and adding food intolerances to the mix is a whole other ball game. As a mum to 3 kids (2 with intolerances), whilst still being me and not just ‘Madison’s mum’, I know how busy life can get, so I want to quickly share some tips for raising children with intolerances.
So, just imagine our life – I had a 3yr old daughter who was meeting all her milestones, an 18-month-old daughter (Jemma) who did not speak, was exhausted and in pain constantly, and a baby on the way.
Jemma would break out in angry, itchy rashes (eczema) so badly that her face and bottom would bleed, while producing 10+ nappies a day of chronic diarrhoea. Those were some fun times!
The only thing her blood showed was iron deficiency, otherwise there was nothing apparently wrong with her. Tired of helplessly watching her suffer, I decided it was up to me and did some research before completing an elimination diet, which uncovered dairy, soy and FODMAP sensitivities.
If you think there is something wrong, trust your gut and look into it. Get a second or third opinion, and ask for more tests. There are blood scans, scopes and elimination diets you can try. Be sure to keep pushing until you get some help and a plan.
Life with kids is super unpredictable, whether it be the random places you find your favourite handbag or the hilarious questions that get asked daily, we need to at least be sure we know where to access ‘safe’ foods for our kids to eat at all times.
Heading out one day to a food festival, I hit an obstacle – my kids couldn’t eat anything there! As with the food at birthday parties, Christmases and play dates, they missed out again and again. Food prep is a saviour here.
Preparing food (in bulk) is a great idea, especially snacks that your kids love, want to eat are are safe options. If you’re heading to a play date, car trip, birthday party or visit to grandma, take some food with you. Keeping pre-packaged snacks such as rice cakes or their favourite treat and fruit will get you out of trouble, and homemade snacks like muesli bars and bliss freeze well and can be a great treat all year round.
Organising the pantry at home is essential, too. Creating a special shelf with your child’s ‘safe foods’ may work for you, or you could try a coloured sticker on each product that is safe. E.g. green sticker dots = gluten free; yellow sticker dots= dairy free, etc.
The stickers are cheap and easily accessible. The idea is that you research and find the ‘safe’ foods, and then when you pack them in the pantry you place the matching sticker dot on the product label/packaging so everyone knows which foods have the tick of approval for each intolerance.
Eating out is such a nice treat and a great way to catch-up with people. So call ahead to cafes and restaurants to see what menu items may suit, and perhaps change the venue if needed, unless they will allow you to bring food for your child.
Win or learn
As amazing and necessary as our tribe is, we need help, but sometimes this can end in disaster (poo explosions agh, or worse) when the kids get the wrong food when visiting others.
Educate the village around your child. Grandparents, childcare workers, family friends and community groups are important in your child’s life, so be sure they know what you child can or can’t eat. A printed list is an easy option, or even their own snack box of non-perishables to keep at the other persons house for visits with all the brands and foods listed on the box to allow them to restock as needed.
Learn about the alternatives for foods and adapt or find suitable recipes to add to your regular mix. You may not get the recipes right every time, but you win or you learn, and you have to keep giving it a chance.
We are all human so take it easy and forgive yourself if you create a dish that may not be suitable. Or give them that chocolate because you felt bad they missed out but paid for it later. And be sure to celebrate success when your kids’ symptoms clear up and you’ve got it sorted. It won’t be quick or easy, but it’s possible and you can do it! So, celebrate with each little win.
Best of luck and happy cooking.
Tarnya Bruinier, Founder of Gourmet You
With my passion for food and health background, I decided that I could help other families navigate more of the unknown in the world of food intolerance, providing products, education and coaching to ensure everyone can enjoy food, feel healthy and avoid the same journey we had.
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