Yes, you read that correctly!
Call me weird, I don’t care. I want my family to be thankful for the food allergies we have, and I’m completely serious.
While there are lots of scary things about food allergies, I do get weary of the bemoaning I read and hear about them. I realize that it IS difficult and inconvenient to live with food allergies. It IS challenging to figure out how to include children in social events without making them feel weird or left out. An allergic reaction can be life threatening— and that is nothing to shake a stick at, obviously. However, it’s easy to focus on the negatives all the time, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children to define themselves by what they can’t eat or do because of their food allergies. People are more than their diets!
Here are 5 reasons to be thankful for food allergies (in no particular order):
- You eat healthier. We cook and bake a lot at home out of necessity. Sure, we buy some allergy-free processed foods to help us when we need it (like chewy bars and cookies). But overall, we eat less calories, sugar, salt, fat, etc. just because we don’t have the option of eating out. Even what we cook at home is better for us: casseroles and dishes full of cheese, sour cream, butter, bread, etc. just aren’t possible to make or practical to adapt for a multiple food allergy diet. Heck, we didn’t even attempt to try a few fast food options until our oldest was almost four years old. While you do have to make sure you are balancing out the nutrients you miss from some food categories (like dairy), overall I think it is easier to maintain a simple fruit, vegetable, lean meat diet when you don’t have a choice.
- There are worse health conditions out there. Yeah…we may have to be super vigilant about what we eat, plan ahead constantly, and maybe even annoy friends and acquaintances with all of our precautions and explaining, but our family just has a very restricted diet. My children are not hooked up to any machines. They are not bedridden or in a hospital. And while there is no cure for food allergies, you can manage them, and there is the possibility that people may outgrow some of them (like milk, soy, wheat, or egg). My heart goes out to all you parents that have dealt or are dealing with much more serious health conditions. We’ll vow to keep our complaining about alternative foods to a minimum out of respect for you.
- You are not the only person or family dealing with food allergies! Food allergies are on the rise, which obviously is not a good thing, but the silver lining is that there is more public awareness than ever. Support for food allergic families is growing via the internet and national and local groups. Also, the general public is vaguely familiar with various diet restrictions: in addition to food allergies, celiac disease and diabetes come to mind. Schools, churches, and other venues are catching on to the needs of those with food allergies, and safety precautions and procedures are much more common in these places. While there is more education to be done, things have come a long way.
- Trends in alternative diets add variety and creativity to mealtime. Can I give a shout out to all the vegans out there? I’m just sayin’. 🙂 While vegans eat items to which our family is allergic (like wheat, soy, and nuts), they don‘t eat milk or egg products, and often they avoid a lot of processed ingredients. With a few simple substitutions for an ingredient here or there, I’ve gotten some useful recipes from adapting various vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. Because of the popularity of gluten-free eating, more wheat-free resources are available. When I’m getting tired of our tried and true recipe rotation, I hit the library and the internet for inspiration.
- It is easier than ever to get allergy-free ingredients and products. We live in the internet age. Hallelujah! We can order special items and have them delivered right to our doorstep. We can buy things in bulk and save moo-la. Grocery chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Fresh Thyme Market cater to customers who like or need organic and alternative ingredients. Even standard big box retailers like Walmart, Meijer, Kroger, and yes, even Aldi (here in the Midwest, at least) carry several allergen free products or product lines. As the food allergy niche grows, the market is responding, which provides us with more choices and is driving prices down. If you are going to be dealing with food allergies, now is the time to do it. 🙂
Every day I seem to find another reason to be thankful about having food allergies in this day and age. By the time my daughters are grown up, who knows how things will look. Maybe there will be a cure. In the meantime, our family is choosing to remain as positive as possible.
Do you have any positives to add to this list?