With my busy kids running around, this house sees more than its fair share of play dates. Oh, wait: my middle schooler has banned me from using that term. I’m supposed to say that he and his friends are “hanging out.” Whatever it’s called, I’ve got hungry kids raiding my fridge and pantry several times a week.
Some of these children—thankfully, not mine—have food allergies (mostly to nuts) ranging from slight to severe. There’s only so far I can get offering fruit, and lots of the nut-free cookies and packaged snacks are loaded with fat and sugar. Not to mention, some of the labels can be difficult to interpret. If a product doesn’t actually contain nuts, but is processed in a facility that handles nuts, it can still cause a reaction in a super sensitive child. And while most of my kids’ friends have become fairly good at self-monitoring, there’s always my concern that the allergic child will feel uncomfortably singled out.
I’ve also learned that allergies are not just for kids…and not just to nuts. Several years back, after the birth of her son, my friend Marty grew increasingly ill whenever she ate certain foods. After two years, she was diagnosed with celiac disease, a condition in which the immune system reacts to gluten–wheat protein–and damages the lining of the small intestine. Among other symptoms, celiac disease can cause severe malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. To manage her disease, my friend eliminated all gluten products from her diet…and, if you read labels, you’ll find that gluten is everywhere. I’ve even seen it used in hard candy, as a binder! (more…)