Food allergies are a growing health concern in today’s society. According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, as many as 15 million people suffer from food allergies in the US alone – and today we get the chance to hear from one of them. Jen, our wholesale merchandiser right here at the Free People home office, recently found out that has not one, but three allergies: wheat, eggs, and dairy. Today she’s sharing with us a bit of her story – and letting us know that although it can be tough, a life with food allergies can be a happy life, indeed.
What prompted you to be tested for allergies?
I was having trouble swallowing and my throat and chest would begin to get itchy after meals.
What was your first thought upon finding out that you were allergic to wheat, eggs, and dairy?
“OH SH*T!” No, really, I was in shock. I never thought that I would be allergic to anything, nevermind 3 different things! I was actually really upset.
What does a typical meal consist of for you now?
Lots of greens. Salads for lunch, vegetables, rice, and meat! I actually still have a lot of variety, though. I have found wheat-free waffles for breakfast and wheat-free pasta for dinner, so I still eat typical meals — just with substitutes. :)
How do you feel now, compared to before you changed your diet? Have your symptoms subsided?
I feel amazing. I haven’t had any issues swallowing. I have a lot more energy, which was a huge bonus I didn’t see coming out of this. I used to get really tired mid-day, but that doesn’t happen anymore. I have a better state of mind overall because I’m not tired and uncomfortable. I’m much happier!
Which food do you miss the most?
It’s a tie between sweets and bread! Swirl ice cream cones from Mr. Softy, chocolate cake, peanut butter smidgens from Gertrude Hawks (my favorite candy ever). I could literally cry right now realizing I cannot have a Carvel Ice cream cake for my birthday this year — I have had one every single year since I was 10. Maybe I will just have a bite this year… And I miss having a sandwich on a big soft roll! My fake bread is not as soft and tasty. :)
Is there any food that you’ve been introduced to on this new diet and LOVE?
My husband is the cook in our household and it has actually encouraged him to be more adventurous with different types of seasoning and sauces on our meat, rice, and vegetables. It’s not really new food — it’s more new things & substitutes we have put on our food, which has been fun for our whole family. Even our son likes a lot of the stuff I eat. Things like subbing in coconut milk in mashed potatoes is something so small but healthier and still tastes good!
What advice or words of encouragement would you offer to those with recently diagnosed allergies?
It does get easier! My first three weeks I really, really struggled. I was in tears some nights after eating the same things for days straight. Rice Krispies in coconut milk for breakfast, fruit as a snack, salad for lunch, and meat/vegetable/rice for dinner — I ate that for pretty much 3 weeks straight because I was terrified to eat something with eggs, dairy, or wheat in it. I have never had a big interest in cooking, probably because I am terrible at it!! It was really hard for me to introduce new things because I didn’t want to take the time out of my busy schedule to figure out what I could actually eat.
Finally I started doing some research and getting suggestions from others. There are a ton of other people out there who have allergies or are on special diets, which has been really helpful. Both my sisters-in-law have allergies so they were my go-to people. Wegmans has been a godsend — they have a lot of pre-packaged things that I can eat, which is perfect for me!
After doing a bit of research, Jen has discovered some sweet alternatives that actually taste like real sweets – and she wanted to share them with us! Here are Jen’s suggestions, and a little blurb from her about each one:
So Delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream
This has been my after dinner treat. Made with coconut milk instead of cow milk, it actually tastes like real ice cream! (unlike much of the other non-dairy “ice cream” I tried).
Immaculate Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough
I cannot believe these cookies are wheat, dairy, and egg free. They taste amazing and I have had people ask me where I got the recipe. Well, they are actually just from a pack and only take 13 minutes in the oven, but I like to pretend I “made” them.
Some dark chocolate also has milk chocolate in it, but if you go to a true chocolate store where they make it, they usually have pure dark chocolate, which is milk free. I like to get it with almonds since I am just getting used to the taste of dark chocolate.
Wegmans Gluten Free Pancake Mix
I love breakfast any time of day, especially some really good pancakes. My husband mixes coconut milk to make them and they taste just as good as regular pancakes (maybe a little less fluffy).
*If you don’t have a Wegmans near you, look for the gluten-free aisle of your health food store.
Do you have any delicious recipes for wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free foods? Please share them below!