One of the questions I hear most after telling people about my food allergies is “How do you do that?!”, often followed by “So, what DO you eat??”.
Let me tell you, living with food allergies is no walk in the park. Cravings for things you can’t have, spending hours trying to figure out restaurants that will be “safe” to eat at, and above all else, making sure you are getting all of the vitamins/minerals/ etc. in any given day are all regular struggles. However, I come to think of my food allergies as being somewhat of a blessing. In my case, all of the foods I have to avoid, are simply things that my body is so much better off without. Sure, I sometimes play this game in my head where I weigh the inevitable effects of a dairy breakout and stomach pains against a piece of decadent raspberry cheesecake, but in the end I always err on the side of caution.
For this post, I wanted to put together a short list of tips for living with food allergies; think of it like a survival guide to the world of forbidden foods.
1. First and foremost, you are doing this for your body and your health.
Obviously, we all want what’s best for our health, and in the case of people with food allergies, it comes down to a matter of true survival sometimes. But, even if eating that piece of cheese means a facial breakout and abdomen pains, realize that avoiding it altogether will be better in the long run. Your body is the only one you have, and sabotaging it with things that will only cause you problems is no way to go about life. Maybe that means no pasta, but it also means you can leave your bed every morning.
2. Consider it a test of will power.
No one is perfect, and especially in very mild allergy cases, breaking down and eating that piece of pizza might happen. But, remember that the higher the standards you hold yourself to, the more your body will thank you. Personally, I realized that avoiding all things that even cause minor issues means that I can indulge in those few ‘junk food’ options I have left more often. Sure, my will power will keep me from french toast, mozzarella sticks, cannoli, or ice cream, BUT because my body is being fed with mostly fresh fruits and vegetables daily, I let myself have fried potatoes, coconut milk hot chocolate, and take-out massaman curry whenever I crave it. Think of it more like a trade of foods, rather than a continually growing list of things you simply can’t have. Not to mention, when you start to think about those foods you can’t have as being poison to your body, they start to become more and more uninteresting. Going along with that first rule, if a donut is going to put me in bed for two days, I’d rather pass and go for a handful of cashews anyway.
3. Use your problem solving and get creative with your food.
Sure, those food spreads on your Instagram feed look amazing, but with a little problem solving and creativity, your meals can look just as appealing (and they won’t make you feel like your body is attacking you from the inside out). Turn to colorful fruits and vegetables, and look into things like chia seeds or dried spices to dress up your plate. I love adding garlic, turmeric, rosemary, flax meal, or fresh herbs to my meals whenever possible. Just because your foods are limited doesn’t mean you can’t start to experiment with what you CAN have. As I mentioned in Avocado & Egg: My Superfoods, I would’ve never considered throwing fried eggs over avocado, but now it’s a favorite brunch meal of mine!
4. Learn your staples.
This one is going to be based around those foods you CAN eat. Especially when it comes to eating out at restaurants, knowing a few basics that you can always go to is extremely helpful. My friends and family have pretty much learned my “safe list” by now, but for those that are like myself and avoid gluten, dairy, corn, or soy, all hope is not lost! I have learned that restaurants offering sushi, Indian, Thai, Mexican, or breakfast foods tend to have at least a few options that fit my laundry list of allergies. Learning these few options, especially when it comes to traveling to new cities, is so so helpful! Trust me, your friends and family will be thankful and won’t worry about trying to appease your allergy gods, and YOU won’t be stuck eating salads without croutons, cheese, or dressing for every meal. So, take some time and brainstorm those few meals that you know are staples in your diet, and come up with a short list of establishments that could easily cater to them.
5. Educate Yourself
Take this opportunity to use your food allergies to educate yourself more about the food consume. Chances are, you will realize that eating clean and being more conscious of what you put in your body becomes second nature to you. After reading every ingredient listed on a box of cereal, or double-checking online what exactly maltodextrin is derived from, you will turn towards a more hassle-free approach of eating foods you know came directly from the ground or products made of less than five ingredients (all of which you can easily identify). A few years ago, I wouldn’t have given a second thought as to what was in my frozen alfredo pasta dinner, but now, you couldn’t pay me to eat one of them. Your body is your temple, and you should be aware of every single thing that goes into it. Read articles, watch youtube videos, whatever your preferred means of learning is, take the time to understand your food!
Living with food allergies doesn’t have to be a curse. Sure, the first few months (even years) can be difficult, but trust me after enough time you wouldn’t dream of going back to the days of mindless gluten, dairy, etc. consumption. Good luck, and don’t forget, you aren’t alone!
-Moss & Mango