Thursday, March 28, 2013

Allergy Friendly Lunches

This is Beaker:

Beaker is 3 1/2 years old and has struggled with eczema and asthma ever since he was brand new. For a long time we tried elimination diet after elimination diet, but never had consistent improvement. He had scratch testing done for allergies, but the results were inconclusive. Finally, we turned to alternative medicine and took him to see a Naturopathic doctor. His test results came back a little over a week ago and now we finally know what he is reacting to! 

It turns out that Beaker is allergic to wheat, rye, barley, spelt ~ basically, he is reacting to gluten. He is also allergic to soy, hazelnuts, and garlic. We have spent the last ten days eliminating these from his diet completely and already we have seen a great improvement in his health. He hasn't needed his inhaler even a single time since the first day of allergy-safe eating. He has only had a single flare-up of eczema, the day after he grabbed a regular cookie and stuffed it in his mouth before I could get it from him. The dark circles under his eyes are disappearing, he is sleeping better, he doesn't snore as much, and he never complains of being itchy at bedtime anymore. It is wonderful to see how much better he feels now that his body isn't fighting things that are toxic to him anymore!

Of course, there is a learning curve involved, for all of us. When the results came back that he was reacting to soy and gluten, the Dude and I had a knee-jerk reaction of "but what will we feed him?!" And we realized fast that the entire house would have to be cleared of all foods that aren't Beaker safe, as the big kids are prone to leaving things down unattended, and it's also hard for Beaker to see them eating foods that he loves and not being able to have some himself.  We are working on getting all of the stuff that he can't eat out of the house now, so for the next week or two the big kids will have lunches that are a little more heavy on crackers and other snacks than they usually might have. And after it's all out of the house, everything we bring into our home will be nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and garlic-free.

It has actually been a lot easier than we anticipated. There have been several tantrums and moments where Beaker would melt down into tears, crying "It doesn't habe gwu-en, it doesn't habe soy, it IS safe!" and that has been hard. But as we phase all of the stuff that he can't have out of the house, those moments are becoming rare and Beaker is adjusting fast. He is already learning to ask "Does it habe soy? Does it habe gar-wic? Does it habe gwu-en?" before eating anything. And the way he says 'maltodextrin' is adorable. As he gets older, this will be easier and easier for him. When he learns how to read he will be able to read labels for himself, to keep himself safe and healthy. Finding things Beaker can eat is a whole lot easier than we thought it would be. After all, most fruits and vegetables are find for him, and he loves them already.

Cooking has been much easier than I thought it would be, for sure. Finding alternatives for our normal recipes has been a cinch. We are so fortunate to live in an area with a lot of shopping options. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods carry quite a few safe packaged foods that are Beaker-safe, and we already are used to cooking from whole foods, so that hasn't been a major change. I have even been able to make a baked pasta dish which was completely Beaker-safe! 

I was a little worried about preschool, but luckily those worries have turned out to be unnecessary. Beaker attends preschool two days per week, for 4-5 hours each day. He is there for lunch and for afternoon snack, and sometimes for morning snack, if we drop him off early. I was a little worried about him being there with all of that food! But it has been smooth and easy. I took in a bag full of Beaker-safe shelf-stable snacks, like Pirate's Booty and a package of EnjoyLife chocolate chip cookies for special occasions. This way the preschool always has snacks on hand for him. I also pack his lunch for him, and pack a small snack each day, too. Finding things which he likes to pack for him to take has been much easier than we thought, for sure. It is no more difficult than feeding him at home. And he is thrilled that he gets to take his Thomas the Tank Engine lunchboxes to school.

We are approaching Beaker's food allergies with a positive attitude, and it has made all of the difference in the world. We are so happy to have him feeling good and healthy that any changes we have to make to keep him that was are totally worth it! Giving up garlic has been the toughest part, because I LOVE garlic. And finding packaged foods that are free of *all* of his allergens is pretty tough. A lot of gluten-free items are made with soy or nuts, and many things which don't have those are flavored with garlic. We have to be completely nut-free, as most nuts are processed together, leading to cross contamination from hazelnuts, which Beaker can't have. We mostly don't eat nuts anyway, since the middle school where Brick and G-man go to school (and where Bean will be next year) is nut-free. We have read that a lot of people who are allergic to soy do not react to soybean oil or soy lecithin, but we won't know if Beaker is one of them until he has gone a few weeks with them completely out of his system, so that we can trial them and see if he reacts.

Our sweet Beaker is feeling so much better!

Some of the lunches I have made for Beaker over the last week - all completely gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and garlic-free:

In this lunch he has organic turkey breast from Trader Joe's with special Beaker-safe cereal (Fruit-Os!), a cut cheese stick, carrots cut into bits, and a fruit face with an EnjoyLife double chocolate chip cookie for dessert.

His fruity face is blueberries with raspberry eyes and a quartered grape mouth.

This is one of his packed lunches for preschool.

He has apple chunks and a hard-boiled egg car. He also has some dehydrated peas from Trader Joe's, a few rolls of organic turkey and a bit of cut string cheese, and blueberries. The chicky egg holds all natural fruit and vegetable juice gummies for a little sweet dessert. This one is gluten, nut, soy, garlic, and dairy free.

For another day, he took a Thomas the Tank Engine lunch:

The sandwich is organic turkey and cheese made with Udi's allergy safe bread. The train tracks on top are strips cut from organic fruit leather. He also has apple slices, and in the Thomas 'egg' he has a few fruit-and-veggie juice gummies.

He also has Beaker-safe popcorn (we are discovering that a lot of the prepackaged popcorns are made with soybean oil and/or cross contaminated with wheat, soy, and nuts, but Trader Joe's carries a few that are safe), and watermelon balls with blueberries.

On another day we packed a small snack for running errands:

Fruit-and-veggie juice gummies (I promise, he does not eat them every day, though it definitely looks that way from these pics!) with apple slices, pieces of string cheese, and dehydrated peas.

If you're looking for other ideas for fun and delicious allergy safe lunches, here are some great links to check out!

Creative Food is peanut and tree nut free:
And Bentos on the Bayou is peanut and tree nut free, too:
Keeley McGuire has many posts which are allergy friendly, including nut-free, gluten-free, egg-free, and more:
iPackLunch features gluten-free lunches every Friday:
Biting the Hand That Feeds You has a lot of allergy safe lunches, too:
Wendolonia has many dairy-free lunch posts:
Beneficial Bento has great gluten-free ideas:
Mommy Says has great gluten-free ideas, too:
Bentorific is vegan (so meat, dairy, and egg free) and occasionally gluten-free:
MommaSays is also gluten-free and allergy friendly:

Products used:


  1. Wow Jessie!! I'm so sorry about his allergies BUT I'm so glad you were able to fine out what was causing his issues. What a blessing to finally give him some relief!!

    1. Yes! It so very much is. He is feeling so much better now! I wish we had gone the ND route from the very beginning.

  2. I am so glad you found out what had been going on, and that you are finding a fix!!! Once you get used to your new lifestyle, it will get much easier. Yes, there is still the reading of every label, but it honestly becomes second nature and just how you do things! I'm here if you ever want to chat. We've been living the same thing for a couple years now. Beautiful post and lovely lunches, too!

    1. Thank you! It already is getting easier, and the Dude and I are getting used to reading labels. It is going to take time to really get into the swing of it, but we have seen such huge improvements in Beaker already, so it's definitely worth the effort!

  3. He's so lucky to have a mom who does all this for him, and he's adorable! I'm glad he's feeling better.

    1. Thank you! That is so sweet of you to say! I think I'm pretty lucky to have him. He's an awesome little guy.

  4. I was just wondering why an allergist could not find the allergies but a naturopathic did?

    1. Because the allergist did skin testing and the naturopath did blood testing. The blood test was far more comprehensive and tested for IgG and IgA reactions, instead of just being a surface scratch test, which was inconclusive and tends to be a little inaccurate for younger patients (Beaker was 2 when the scratch test was done).

  5. I just found your blog through Keeley's! I too have a 3 year old who has multiple food allergies. Although we've known about his for over 2 years now, we're still in the process of teaching him about what's safe and not safe to eat. We're also looking at pre-schools so it's nice to see that you're managing it well. What wonderful and creative packed lunches BTW!

    I started a blog ( to show how we eat around our house while dealing with multiple food allergies - and also blog about other fun things we do. Looking forward to connecting and following your blog!

    1. Hi! And nice to 'meet' you! Beaker started preschool in mid-February and part of our interviewing process before we started taking him there was finding out how well they handled allergies. That is my advice to you ~ be proactive and ask, ask, ask! We had just scheduled with the ND right before Beaks began at the preschool, so we knew going in that we would need a place which had experience. Our preschool's director has food allergies herself, and they are fantastic so far at adjusting and rolling with the dietary restrictions. We just bring in all of Beaker's food ourselves. I am reading over your blog now ~ love it! Thanks for commenting! :)

  6. Jessie I'm so glad you finally figured all the allergies this early. And how wonderful to hear he is sleeping better, feeling better -- that is amazing!! I know it will take a while getting used to cooking, shopping, label searching etc, especially when there is a particular food you really really enjoy and have to omit, but it sounds like you are already in the hang of it! :)

    1. Yes! I think we are. We are finding a lot of great recipes and finding what works for us.

  7. He is so handsome and I am glad he is feeling better! Let me know if I can offer any advice in the gluten-free realm! Thanks for mentioning me!


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