So my son is cows milk and soy intolerant. Even just a little butter on his vegetables causes an unbearable night of unending nappy changes and constantly waking due to stomach pains. When we found out, my son was four months old, losing weight and refusing to eat but still, knowing the cause was milk and soy made my heart sink a little. Those two ingredients appear in nearly everything in some form or another. It’s generally accepted children’s diet needs milk products for calcium and soy is just an easy, natural alternative but what I didn’t realise at the time was how insightful reading the label would be.
When we go out with our son, we can’t just stop in and get fast food. I love the fact he expects to eat with us because it really makes us question our choice of food and what we’re putting into our bodies (as well as his). He’s 14 months old but he loves sushi, salmon, prawns, avocado and rice with pickled ginger on the side. Any take out isn’t going to be as healthy as a home prepared meal but his diet forces us to think past just getting a burger.
With my sons allergies, preparing meals and checking ingredients really starts to dictate the household diet. My wife works casually, sometimes on weeknights and it’s my responsibility when I get home at 6:30 to prepare something for dinner for both of us. It’s pretty common seeing those adverts on television for ready meals and stir through sauces that even daddy can make that mummy would be proud of; healthy, nutritious and easy, but it’s not an option.
All our cooking goes back to basics, the best way to eat is with the least processed ingredients possible. Kangaroo sausages (I find there’s less ‘added ingredients’ than pork or beef), snap-frozen vegetables, unprocessed frozen fish fillets without the crumbs, tinned tuna, chicken strips with rice, couscous or pasta. Foods I assumed were moderately healthy my whole life are suddenly not making the cut due to ingredients I had no idea were even in those foods. My wife still has time to cook casseroles, soups, curries, bolognese and ‘heartier’ meals from scratch but when it comes to my quick dinners, I’m thankful that due to my sons allergies, he’s already been exposed to a range of flavours and textures, from spicy Indian inspired dishes to vegetable soups.
Thankfully, I still get to go out and treat my son every once in awhile. I don’t think sugar is bad (obviously too much is ‘bad’, but it’s part of a balanced diet), and with his diet, my son doesn’t have much in his food (outside the fruit he eats), so driving into the city for a sorbet or getting a boost juice with him is a real treat.
Even though we started with the best dietary intentions when our son was first born, it feels only natural to want to give them sweet, tasty food to see that enjoyment. Those allergens meant we had to be incredibly careful and I’m truly thankful for that. It has not only affected what our son eats, but what we eat around him; and it really made us take note of what we’re buying and consuming ourselves. Anyone with children who have allergies and intolerances probably know how much of an impact one child’s diet can have on a household, and for anyone unfortunate enough to be coming to grips with intolerances and allergies in their children (luckily there’s not much modern science can’t detect) there’s a wide range of food now available without egg, soy, wheat, gluten, milk, etc. At the very least, a necessary change of diet can really impact your diet quite positively and even though I hope my sons intolerances don’t follow him through childhood, I’m at least thankful of being able to experience the lifestyle changes its brought on.