Wednesday, October 9, 2013

AFFORDABLE Eating Away From Home While Traveling or Just Out & About - YES, Even With ALLERGIES!!

How many of us have traveled, will travel, or will be away from home during a meal and have to eat around food allergies??  For our family food allergies have changed much of how we eat, what we eat, when we eat, & where we eat.

Before we leave our house we need to know where we are going, how long we will be gone, if food will be involved (if we are going to someone else's home, a picnic, social gathering, a random outing, etc.) or if a meal will be missed driving to and/or from, etc.  It really can be quite challenging & daunting some days depending upon the logistics of it all.

Remember, we can't just hit a drive-thru & order a burger, taco, etc.  Even if someone says they will have "safe" food for us, it really isn't anything we can usually count on because of the dreaded cross contamination (as in someone using a utensil or even their hands in a food item that contains an allergen & then putting their unwashed hands or utensil into our "safe" food, which then renders it unsafe for us), improper preparation that has allowed cross contamination (i.e. using the same prep place for preparing a gluten free food as a gluten full food without properly sanitizing the area between preparation), a hidden allergen (MSG is a gluten source as are various types of yeasts, etc.), etc.

I know, you are thinking would a few crumbs or a tiny bit of gluten in our food make a difference?!  I ask you, would you feel same way about PEANUTS if someone said they had a nut allergy?!  Everybody seems to really fear, pity, & respect NUT allergies, but people fail to realize that ANY food can have just as severe of a reaction for some people... just like bees & nuts can.  YES, one can have an anaphylactic reaction to gluten... & yes, even a few crumbs or a bit of gluten food CAN cause a reaction... and a very serious one at that! 

Think of it like this... you come to our house for a meal.  As we are eating I tell everyone how I cleaned up dog poop in the yard before I prepared the meal... and that I did NOT wash my hands before preparing the food; but no worries I was careful not to get any poop on my hands.

I know, your first reaction is EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW, gross!!!!!!!!!  Am I right?!  You would be completely grossed out & maybe even ANGRY... you may push your plate to the center of the table in disgust even though I said I was careful not to get poop on my hands so the chances of there being any poop in the food was very minimal.

So now YOU tell ME how that is any different than gluten?!  NO, dog poop isn't clean, but remember I was very careful & if there is any poop in the food, it is very minimal; no worries at all, right?!  Do I make my point?!

One time we went to a party during a regular meal time, so we were hungry as we had not just eaten like we tend to do when going somewhere when we don't know if we will be able to eat there safely.  We were were told there would be tons of safe food we could eat... Mr. Lee didn't ask specifics, but trusted in what was said... mistake #1!

Anyway, we got there visited for a while & then it was dinner time.  Out of all of the food there, all we could eat was potato chips & potato salad.  YES, you read correctly... potato chips & potato salad... for dinner....

Mind you, the party goers were eating Italian beef on rolls, pasta w/bread & butter, pasta salads, oodles of finger foods, all different kinds of flavored chips, cake, cookies, etc.  The house smelled like, well, delicious catered food.  The Lee kids & I ate our potato salad & potato chips and we had a little lemonade...we ate mostly potato salad because we were starving & of the two choices, it was the healthiest & most filling.  We were even hungrier because of seeing everybody else's plates heaped w/food.... all of our former favorite foods, no less.  I felt absolutely terrible for my kids.  They didn't complain one bit, but I learned a BIG lesson from that experience.

First, Mr. Lee is not a detail kind of guy... I will find out the details MYSELF from now on.  Second, what other people think you can or should be able to eat, is often completely different from the reality of what you actually can eat.  Third, ALWAYS have a back up plan so you don't go hungry.

I will be quite honest... after that experience we didn't eat anywhere else for quite a while.  I didn't care to repeat it... not the sadness, disappointment, or hurt feelings (read on for those details). 

The WORST part of  it wasn't that we had eaten potato chips & potato salad as a meal, but the comments made TO my children & ABOUT my children, as if I couldn't hear... how deprived they were because they couldn't eat cake, how awful it was that they couldn't eat the name brand tortilla chips chock full of flavorings & chemicals, how they couldn't drink the soda, & the list went on & on & on...  it was REALLY ridiculous!! 

I bit my tongue for quite a while & I finally had to speak up... not because of pride, not because of anger, but because I knew that those same comments could actually possibly make my kids believe that stuff.

The world is full of far too many people who feel ENTITLED because they are or were deprived, or so they claim.  I am certainly not about to foster that characteristic & attitude in my children as well!!

I firmly told the hecklers that gluten is a POISON to OUR bodies... that it makes us feel terrible & even makes us sick.  I said that I would NEVER feel bad about not offering something POISONOUS to THEIR child (or children), so don't feel bad for mine.  WOW, where did I come up with that?!  I have no idea... definitely a God thing!  There was that deer in the headlights look for a few moments from everyone & the comments stopped.  WONDERFUL, or so I THOUGHT...  

Behind our backs, they started to give the kids lots more lemonade & hard, sticky, chewy candies... the kinds that are HORRIBLE for dental health... which is nothing to mess with. I am not a stick in the mud & do allow some candy here & there, but our kids get sick easily from sweets... that night was no exception either.  

I tell my children frequently that while we may have food allergies, it has to be THEIR conviction to eat properly to avoid the allergens because they have to make their own decisions one day, when I am not there to help them, like when they get jobs, go to college, get married, etc.

Way back when we first went gluten free, we would try to eat some gluten here & there, to see how our bodies responded.  We would get flu-like symptoms... achy, belly aches, headaches, etc.  If it was during my monthly cycle, it would severely INCREASE... so much so I would have to stay home during that time.  One child got their FIRST ever ear infection at age 10 after eating gluten at a party.  We went to a party & about two hours later the child woke up from her ears being in tremendous pain, she had the shakes, she started to vomit, etc.   

She has NEVER wanted it again, & can you blame her?!  Oddly enough, there have been a few people who have commented to her that she isn't "allergic" to it, so to just go ahead & eat it.  Uhm, REALLY?!  She puked, got her 1st ever ear infection (a DOUBLE ear infection too!), etc. yet it didn't affect her?!  I beg to differ & I resent someone telling her that she should eat it.

If someone told YOU to eat something you knew could be harmful to YOUR body, would you?!  I guess that is a moot point since people dump so many chemicals into their bodies every day, all day long, in the name of food.  But how about a little arsenic?!  Believe it or not, but SOME arsenic is actually okay for us, depending upon the source, but we can only have a little of it or else THAT is when the harmful affect can happen.  Yet if I told someone to go eat some arsenic, they'd think I was NUTS & tell me so, no?!

In the beginning saying no to gluten was challenging because it just felt like we had given up pretty much everything we had eaten our whole lives... and we pretty much had.

During a weak moment, before we fully realized the severity of the reactions (& actually put two & tow together to realize how violent the reactions were & the correlation), I would allow them the choice if they wanted to eat gluten.  Do you know what they would say?!  Uhm, LAST time I had it I felt H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E!!  NO, thank you... I don't want to feel that way ever again!!

So, anyway, after we left that party  & our kids got sick, it was ME holding their hair back as they puked, ME cradling them telling them they would feel better once it was all out of their tummies, ME comforting them ALL. NIGHT. LONG!!  I asked my kids WHY they ate the candy & drank the lemonade and they thought WE said it was okay.  Yep, ADULTS stooped to the level of telling the kids it was okay with us... some heroes, eh?!  YES, I was L.I.V.I.D!!   

After that whole, er uhm, fiasco, our choice for eating was to either eat at home, from home (meaning to bring food from home, prepared at home), or to eat ONLY where we KNEW it was safe by verifying ALL of the ingredients, etc.  We went on a road trip a while ago & I was very concerned about what we were going to eat, how we were going to eat, & where we were going to eat.  Enter in Mr. Lee, my hero!!

As we all know eating out can be very expensive... factor in eating out for allergies & the cost can be exorbitant.  Imagine ordering a burger w/no bun & not being able to eat fries, salad, soup, bread, etc.  So you are pretty much left w/a beef patty to eat & some water to drink.  Mind you, you are paying FULL price, yet only eating PART of the meal... AND you will most likely still probably be HUNGRY after that, longing for the days when they used to serve the parsley sprigs on the plates too.  Yep, makes perfect sense... let's eat out so we can spend all kinds of money, only to STILL be HUNGRY after?!  Oooooooooooo, race you there!!  Uhm, NOT!!

Doesn't that look DELICIOUS!?
Oh yeah, so Mr. Lee said that even if we bought our food from grocery stores, paying retail prices (retail price is like a curse word to most of us, but hear me out!!), we'd still save a lot of money, PLUS we'd KNOW it was safe to eat because we'd know the ingredients & it would be prepared by yours truly.   We brought a cooler with us so we could safely store the leftovers for a snack or meal later on.

One thing we ate during that road trip was sandwiches, either on gluten free bread (yeouch, retail price) or unflavored rice cakes.... yum... pickles, meat, cheese, mayo, etc!!  Those were some of the BEST tasting sandwiches & we remember them fondly.  My lap was covered in crumbs from making the sandwiches, but our bellies were happy & full!

Since that road trip we will frequently bring a cooler with us with food and/or snacks from home... sometimes we run into a grocery store to buy the fixings to make sandwiches if we will be gone during a meal and/or have a long drive time, etc.  We know we can't expect our kids to leave a place during a meal time & wait another hour or more to eat because we don't have the luxury of being able to eat via a drive-thru.  Not that a drive-thru meal is healthy, but it sure beats going hungry if it won't make one sick.

Adjusting to a new way of eating can be a challenge.  Changing old habits is also a challenge.  For us so far, the biggest obstacle & stress has been the way OTHER people treat us, handle things, etc.  We NEVER expect anybody to bend over backwards or change their own way of doing things for us.  We don't expect any certain food.  We don't expect nor want people to feel sorry for us (there is no reason to).  HOWEVER, we do feel quite disappointed & awkward when someone says they are going to do something (like have a certain food, etc.) and they don't follow through.  We have been INTENTIONALLY excluded from invites to certain events because of our food issue.  How about leaving the situation in OUR hands & letting us decide if we want to participate or how we could make it work for our family?!  Talk about hurtful! 

Just recently someone said they would make a snack for a kids' group activity & that they would make sure it was gluten & peanut free due to issues with peanuts for one child & gluten for our kids.  Well, we went there & snack time started.  Guess what?!  They made sure there were no PEANUTS but what they served was entirely gluten (store bought cookies) & my kids couldn't eat it.

I have to admit, it was VERY hurtful to me as a mother to see my kids KNOWINGLY excluded from something by someone who VOLUNTEERED to make sure the treat was safe for ALL of the kids, not just the ONE child with the peanut allergy.  See what I mean?!  All hail the mighty peanut allergy (please don't think I am minimizing it or saying it is less important, because I am not... I think ALL allergies/sensitivities should be equally regarded, respected, & considered).

The story does have a happy ending though... remember the potato salad & potato chip party?!  Well, knowing I can't usually count on anybody else (aside from few really amazing people in our lives)  my when it comes to feeding my family safe food, we made cookies for our family to bring with so my kids didn't have to feel as awkward if the snack was unsafe for them.  Good thing I know I can't  depend upon others.

I admit, it is kind of sad when I think about... someone saying they will do something for a child(ren) & only doing it for a select child.  That said I won't let them steal my joy & will just add them to the list of people I can't count on.  I DO like knowing whom I can & can't trust.  In that respect it is a worthwhile lesson & another teachable, trainable moment for my children in life, trust, respect, courtesy, & how important it is to keep our word.  For that I am grateful!

Do YOU have to consider food allergies too??  Do you ever run into a grocery store to make sandwiches or to grab something to eat while away from home??  What is YOUR go to on the road meal??  Do you bring a cooler w/snacks when out & about??  If you have food allergies to deal with, what do YOU do??

<3 Mama Lee <3