Just Found Out Your Child Has Food Allergies? Read This
Words: Denise Woodard
Learn how to advocate for your kid’s health and safety with advice from this expert.
Shortly after her first birthday, my daughter Vivienne was diagnosed with food allergies to several common foods, and I was shocked.
My husband and I happily eat whatever we’d like, and no one in our immediate families suffers from food allergies.
I was also scared—would she ever have a normal life? I wondered—and a bit lost. What exactly would she eat if she couldn’t eat corn, wheat, eggs, or tree nuts?
Vivienne is turning 3 in March, and I’m pleased to say that she’s a happy, healthy toddler who goes to school, has plenty of play dates, and has a busier social calendar than I do.
Initially, I found myself making all of Vivienne’s meals and snacks from scratch, but quickly realized that wasn’t a sustainable long-term solution. I sought out allergy-friendly meal and snack options, but walked away from store shelves frustrated when I couldn’t find anything that met Vivienne’s dietary restrictions, my nutritional standards, and still tasted good. I channeled my frustration, along with my CPG background, into starting Partake Foods, a line of allergy-friendly meal and snack options.
Some of my tips for those newly diagnosed food allergy mamas:
1. Remember you are not alone.
The No Nuts Mom Facebook Group has more than 20K members! There are communities that exist no matter what allergy you’re dealing with, and from my experience, these mamas all want to share their experiences and learnings to help other families.
2. Remember that you are your child’s advocate.
It’s your responsibility to make sure your child’s teacher, caregiver, grandparents, whoever are aware of your child’s allergies, understand the severity of them, and are properly equipped with an emergency plan, should the need arrive.
No more being shy about asking for what you want/need—your child’s safety and life are at stake when dealing with food allergies.
3. Make sure to plan ahead.
I remember early on in Vivienne’s diagnosis, we were traveling and had an airline delay. There was literally not one safe snack in the entire terminal for her!
When you’re traveling, don’t assume your destination will have safe options—call ahead and/or make sure to bring your own! The same goes for social events, such as birthday parties. I typically call ahead to find out what the other children will be enjoying and bring a “safe” version for Vivienne.
4. Make sure you’re seeking the appropriate care.
In my experience, I’ve found that your pediatrician is not the best source of information when dealing with food allergies.
I would recommend specifically seeking out a pediatric allergist—and making sure you are comfortable with them, because you’re going to be seeing them fairly often, whether for food challenges or annual testing.
5. Enjoy the benefits of food allergies.
There’s some silver linings in this food allergy journey. For my family, these silver linings have come in several different forms: a healthier diet for our entire family, more awareness about what we’re eating and how it’s sourced, a child that is not scared to advocate for herself, a business that’s built around bringing better for you allergy-friendly foods to other families, and a whole new host of friends that are dealing with the same food allergy struggles.
Denise Woodard is the founder of Partake Foods, a line of gluten-, nut-, and dairy-free cookies.