Five Top Tips for a Food Allergy-Safe Kitchen

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There are basically two camps of thinking when it comes to cooking with a member of the family who has one or multiple food allergies. The first completely eliminates the allergen from the home, making it a safe haven for the allergic individual by nobody having the option to have the offending food available. The other camp does not eliminate allergens, but comes up with a system to keep things safe.

I see the drawbacks and benefits of both sides, but for our family, there are just so many allergens to steer clear from that the rest of the family who isn’t affected by Jonah’s multiple food allergies would not be realistically content.

We also feel that Jonah has so many anaphylactic allergies to deal with that we want him to be comfortable both in and out of our home to eat confidently no matter who is with, or what situation he finds himself in by being able to read labels, ask questions, and decrease anxiety he may develop over offending foods as he gets older. The reality of his diagnosis thus far is that there are multiple allergies that are life-threatening for him and he lives in a world that surrounds him with them. The more we can help him navigate at home in a “realistic” setting, the more confident he will feel when put into situations outside the home to advocate for himself and protect himself when we can’t be there as he grows older.

We have come up with a system in our home, specifically our kitchen to still ensure ultimate safety for Sadie, who has a life threatening peanut/tree nut allergy and for Jonah’s multiple anaphylactic list of allergens as well. Hopefully if you are newly diagnosed or going back and forth between which way is the right way for your family, these tips will give you confidence in your kitchen.

  • USE SEPARATE UTENSILS/COOKWARE  We keep bowls, plates, spoons and forks separate so Jonah is always eating from the same things. As time has passed we have also designated cookware specifically for one use. Example: we have a small skillet that we only use for eggs and nothing else. This way we don’t have to worry about cross-contamination. I also use the same muffin tin for his baking and line cookie sheets with foil so I can throw it away after use.
  • CLEAN WITH DISPOSABLES  I used to be a hard-core frugal when it came to cleaning our kitchen by using washcloths and a homemade vinegar spray in our paperless kitchen. However, when dealing with allergies, a washcloth or a sponge is asking for a trip to the hospital from cross-contamination. We don’t think twice about using disposable wipes to clean the surfaces of our kitchen nowadays. We also make a point to clean Jonah’s eating spot first and then move on to other areas of the kitchen as to not subject his safe area from any contaminants we are cleaning up with the same wipe.
  • SEGREGATE SNACKS  We keep any offending snacks in a separate cabinet in our pantry that is too high for either child to reach, even if they got a chair. For the refrigerator, we keep any cheese in a separate drawer away from everything else that is safe and reachable.  We also have plans to implement green stickers to food items that say “safe” and red stickers that say “not safe” as a preliminary introduction to reading labels for Jonah now that he is getting to an age to understand right from wrong. It helps out family members or babysitters who come into the home and are nervous about having to read labels without us there with a hungry little boy. When Jonah is old enough to read, we will start educating him on all of the key words and alternative words for ingredients he is to steer clear from. Until then, everything is out of sight and out of reach.
  • DESIGNATE SAFE EATING AREAS  Jonah always sits in the same spot at the table. This way we all know not to sit there with any unsafe food and to always start cleaning in that spot. Likewise, if I let Sadie have a treat that he is not able to eat, she either sits in her specific spot at the table away from Jonah’s area or at the desk where I can easily wipe off anything that falls. He already knows not to go to either spot that is an option for Sadie to avoid an “owie.”
  • DE-CLUTTER  We have already always been a pretty clean and tidy family, but even more vigilant (you might argue paranoid) in our kitchen than anywhere else in our home. We keep it minimal on the counter tops, only having out what we use daily. We do dishes right away so nothing is left out to curious hands, and we deep clean as we go. The less mess you have to deal with, the less chance there is for any mistake to be made or any accident to be more prone to take place.

So there you have it. The top five tips I have for implementing a safe kitchen when you are dealing with food allergies. Regardless of what camp you fall into, hopefully this is a good springboard for you and your family members to gain confidence to cook and operate in your kitchen bye creating a safe environment no matter what you choose.

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Jonah Dylan’s Second Birthday

Happy 2nd birthday to our Jonah (day before yesterday)!!!

Your favorite things (in no particular order):

  • trains
  • fruit leathers
  • bare feet
  • trash trucks
  • Sadie
  • playing with water
  • tickles/wrestling
  • apple juice and sweet potato fries
  • Goodnight Moon
  • music
  • saying “bye-bye” with your signature wave
  • the ladies
  • Giving squeezes and head bonks

Your dislikes:

  • diaper changes
  • not being able to walk at your own pace (slowest walker EVER)
  • new foods

Jonah,

You are one of the main sources of where our joy springs from within us as parents. In your short two years, you have taught us more about relying on God to protect and provide for us as a family and have showed us time and time again that you are someone so strong, so special, and so full of life.

We know without a shadow of a doubt that your love and compassion for people, your spunk, and your readiness to give love in spite of everything you have been through, especially in this past year is molding you into someone truly great.

We love and are thankful for every single day God gives us with you and are so humbled to have you as our son forever.

Here’s what you looked like the day you were born:

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Here is you on your first birthday:

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And here you are as a big-boy two year old:

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You had a fun “Choo choo…I’m two” train birthday party with us. Between the homemade allergy-friendly cupcakes you talked about eating all day, the falafel (your favorite eats), and running around with your cousins all night, you tuckered yourself out!

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Annual Allergy Testing

“He is among the worst I’ve seen, and I see a lot.”

“His body is highly reactive like it enjoys going into Anaphylactic shock.”

“His immune system is on fire.”

“I feel for your family because this is life and death.”

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I’m not so sure what I was expecting. I’m not all that surprised by the results, but somewhere deep inside of me was praying, wishing, and hoping for some huge turn-around. Like I’d skip out of the office joyfully and run home to give him a strawberry before they’re out of season and see the joy all over his face over the pure sweetness. TJ was wishing we could just open up his food world a little bit to give him an experience he’s never been able to have with us.

But two minutes into his skin test this morning, I knew we were not going in that direction at all.

He cried, wanting to itch his back so badly and a huge part of me broke for him. Oh, how I wish he didn’t have to carry this.

He’s so brave.

He’s so perfect.

When his Allergist came back into the room, he took his seat and praised us for doing as much as we do every day for his safety.

He acknowledged my flowing tears (hello pregnancy hormones), and assured me I am perfect for my son.

And then he gave me a full picture of what Jonah deals with daily.

It’s not just the worsening of his already existing food allergies. It’s also the addition of many environmental allergies. It’s also the Allergic Rhinitis diagnosis. It’s also very serious asthma that poses a real threat to his respiratory system during any allergic reaction. It’s also his out of control Eczema that is a systemic infection, screaming at us that his immune system is working in overtime.

He is just so brave.

So perfect.

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Current Allergy List:

  • Dairy* (worsened, if that was even possible)
  • Egg white* (worsened)
  • Peanut*
  • Cashew*
  • Almond*
  • Walnut*
  • Avocado (worsened)*
  • Sesame Seed*
  • Strawberry
  • Banana*
  • Latex*
  • Shrimp
  • Soy
  • Carmine (red food dye)
  • 3 types of grass
  • dust mites
  • cats

*denotes likely Anaphylactic allergens

We love him just as he is. Perfection. Brave. Happy. Protected by a Great God who holds him.

Thankful Thursday

Sadie likes to start out with as many of her stuffed animals as possible with her in her bed every night. But you must never forget Ellie, her Elephant and the only animal that has a name other than it’s own title. Bear and Puppy come in a close second and third place.

At one time it was only Larry. Now he sleeps in the living room. With Bob.

Shortly after falling asleep, she will thrash around, change positions and everything including pillows and blanket will end up spread across the bare floor.

Jonah sleeps on his belly. Only after he has stood up in his crib laughing at who knows what for a while. When he finally settles, he will raise his arms above his head, holding the edges of his mattress underneath the bumper with his belly down and his butt up. He won’t move unless he gets hungry.

Except when he is teething. When he is in pain, he will sleep on the left side of his mattress cuddled up to his bear and blanket on his back.

That’s how I know he’s getting a new tooth…he sleeps on his back to take the pressure off his face.

I know these things because I’m their Mommy. And I’m so thankful.

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