Today we wanted to continue our Thrive Series with Holly Muncie, the woman behind From Paula to Paleo. While her family may not suffer from food allergies, they do suffer from many food intolerances and she has a ton of cooking tips that food-allergic families can learn from. We’ve been following her on Instagram and always enjoy her feed. We just have to make a point to not look at it late at night because it makes us hungry. 😉 We also love that she’s a Southern girl gone paleo – that’s something we can definitely connect with! Anyway, now we’ll let Holly (the other Holly) do the talking. But first, look at this adorable family photo. (Photo credit: Erin Albright)
We are a family of five living in the southeast where southern style food rules. Two years ago we discovered my daughter (then 5) was anemic. One of the doctors suggestions was to pull dairy – that helped and we have stuck with that. A year ago he also encouraged us to go gluten free to help imrove ADHD, anxiety, and stomach symptoms. Then my two year old did IgG4 testing for eczema and stomach aches last summer. We expected to find a few things and instead came out with a list of 30+ intolerances. It was a steep learning curve for us so I try to do my best at helping others. We’ve gone from traditional southern food (think Paula Deen) to majority paleo these last two years. It’s been quite a journey figuring out what nourishes us best!
What are five tips, tricks or products that have made your life with food allergies (or just life in general) easier?
1. PLANNING AHEAD
Planning ahead helps me a ton. I rarely make one meal at a time. If we are grilling, we grill lots of hamburgers, hot dogs, and maybe even something else at the same time so I have quick lunches and dinners ready to go. Grilled meat freezes well too so my daughter has a grilled Applegate organic beef hot dog nearly every day for her school lunch. If it’s breakfast and I’m making bacon, I use the same pan to keep on cooking and do two pounds roasted veggies in the pan next. If the oven’s hot, keep on going! Sometimes at dinner I’ll sauté double the veggies and put a quiche in the oven for breakfast as we eat dinner. Any little prep like that helps me from having to cook three times a day!
***Holly’s note: Great ideas! We wanted to add that we highly recommend that families with life-threatening food allergies take additional precautions in the kitchen to avoid cross-contact.***
2. MAKE CHANGES GRADUALLY
There were things we switched gradually. For example, we didn’t go straight from regular pasta to spaghetti squash. That was too big of a jump for my kids. We went from regular pasta to brown rice noodles when we went gluten free. Then I’d make part brown rice noodles and part spaghetti squash for a few dinner times. Now we only do spaghetti squash. Snack food was also a tough thing. They were used to goldfish crackers or cereal to snack on. We went from that to all the flavors of Rice Chex available. Eventually I quit buying that and they now snack on Lara bars, plantain chips with nut butter, or fruit/veggies.
3. FOCUS ON THE CAN
I want the focus to be more on what we CAN have than what we can’t. What we can have is endless veggies. Having my kids love veggies is a big deal to me. I do NOT want to sit at the dinner table begging people to eat their food every night. We were eating veggies each night but maybe one with each dinner. Now I like to have 2-3 on our plates. To transition this, I served what I thought may cause a problem first (the new veggie) and once they ate that they could get the rest of their dinner. We also tried flavors on the veggies I knew they liked – a lemon squeezed over roasted broccoli or taco seasoning on cauliflower or bacon with our green beans. Sometimes they like a veggie better roasted than they do grilled. Soups, stews, and chili help to hide veggies – go with a flavor you know your kids like and add an unfamiliar veggie in. There’s times I have 6-8 veggies hidden in taco soup or chili. I also want them to be accustomed to taking several bites of something out of politeness – if they were a guest at someone’s table, I’d want them trying several bites of anything served. A mama friend put this as “four bites polite.” Lastly, we talk about how as we get older, we start liking more and more foods. The more we try it, the more we like it. One of my sons detested sweet potatoes, but now he eats them. I’m so proud of him that sometimes I’ll add some honey on top as a reinforcement for how far he’s come. Then there’s nights I might make mix veggies and give each child their favorite one. A dipping sauce would be great here too, but I don’t usually have that ready. 🙂
***Holly’s note: Yes! Love this! We’re definitely going to incorporate the “four bites polite” rule in our house now***
4. INCORPORATE YOUR FAITH
We talk a lot about how God has made us each unique. He also knows what’s best for our bodies. Things God made are foods we can eat all the time (fruits, veggies, nuts, meat, etc). Things man made up (basically any processed food) should typically be a sometimes food. This helps to cut down on food dye, processed food, sugar, etc. I don’t want to demonize any one food but teach moderation. For those foods totally off limits (dairy and gluten), we talk about how our body works differently and God made us unique. Someone else may need glasses while we need to avoid certain foods. My daughter remembers her stomach aches and the blood draws to check iron levels. She knows it’s not worth it.
5. FINDING COMMUNITY
Finding community was really really important. In the early days of this change, it was really hard for me being in the kitchen alone so much. It felt like all my friends were grabbing take out or at restaurants and we were stuck at home. God provided me with a community on Instagram as well as new friends making similar changes. It’s helped so much to brainstorm meal planning with them, talk about recipe success or failure, and have some common ground. We now know a few restaurants we can go to easily. In our southern town this was especially hard as very few restaurants are aware of food issues (besides peanut). Sometimes I’ll pack baggies of raw veggies for the kids to help round out those meals or I’ll bring our own coconut aminos to an Asian restaurant. The ability to meet a family out for dinner has helped a ton, even if it takes an embarrassing long time for me to order and explain our needs. Community and fellowship is worth that!
One area still difficult for us is parties and eating at other peoples homes. I’d love to hear how other families are doing this.
The day we left children’s hospital after some testing and with the new directions to go dairy free, we stopped to eat lunch. The manager of the restaurant came to the table and sat down with us because he too was dairy free. He not only helped us order lunch, but later took videos of his kitchen showing us his pantry and fridge so that I knew all of my grocery options for dairy free. If you’ve tried to grocery shop and read labels with three kids with you, you know this help was invaluable so that I could just grab and do a quick check that Id gotten the right thing as opposed to standing there reading forever. This is essentially my prayer for my instagram account . Here is our kitchen and meals, here is how we are making this work on a daily basis. You’re not here for the food photography or fine food, you’re here to see how a real family of five deals with gluten and dairy free along with the new addition of 30+ intolerances. One of my favorite things to do for a family who has just found out they’ve got to make these changes is go grab a few groceries for them — usually spaghetti dinner and throw in a few snacks too. Then they know what to go back and get, what store it came from, etc. And they’ve got one easy weeknight supper down pat!
Follow along with Holly: