Desperately seeking Dairy Free… Reply

I have been doing some online research and there is plenty of UK based stuff on coeliac disease and consequently all matters ‘wheat free and gluten free’. I even noticed that the Birds Eye potato waffles packaging has a ‘gluten free’ flag on. So it seems many manufacturers are becoming aware of the benefits of clear labelling at the very least.

However, there is still very little on dairy free. So I think that needs to be my point of difference, with this blog. The dairy free folk need more help! You can get wheat free and gluten free food that still has dairy in, e.g. many chocolate cakes. You cannot get dairy free foods that have not had the gluten and wheat taken out also – well I have never come across any! But I really wish I had…

When Zac first became ill and an intolerance to lactose and then all dairy was suspected, we searched very hard for dairy free foods. Thankfully, because he was so young and a hungry little chap, he didn’t seem to notice the difference when we introduced soya milk and soya yoghurts and we were soon Alpro’s ‘number one fan’.

To start with, we were told he could probably tolerate milk in various ’cooked forms’ and didn’t have to worry too much about it when it is baked into foods etc. But wherever possible, I did try and buy dairy free cakes and biscuits etc as his gut still seemed very sensitive.

As I mentioned, the dairy free cakes and biscuits are almost always also gluten and wheat free and I am not sure if this contributed to him developing an intolerance to wheat and gluten soon after. By removing them from his diet at several points had we lowered his tolerance to them? We might never know for sure.

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Intolerant Cookbooks Reply

Today I went to Waitrose. As the mother of an intolerant child you are forced to be a promiscuous shopper and try every supermarket you pass – in the vain hope that those much loved white chocolate buttons have made a comeback or the tortilla chips.

The section of the aisle definitely carried some more lines than normal, but no white chocolate buttons and no ‘fake’ jammie dodgers. They have been missing for quite some time now and I fear they are not coming back.

At the end of the aisle were all the beautiful cookery books and ‘The Intolerant Gourmet’ jumped out at me. So, someone has already beaten me to the idea of creating a book to help all intolerants. It is a beautiful book and I may buy it. However, the recipes are very much ‘gourmet’ and nothing really appealing to a child or a slightly lazy cook like me. I love to cook meals but am no ‘baker’. Far too many fiddly ingredients, e.g. xanthan gum, arrowroot….

As I unpacked my shopping, I watched the film ‘Julie and Julia’. Made me think about ‘Nicola and Annabel’. In the way that Julie Powell adored Julia Child, who was a cookery guru for American housewives, Annabel Karmel is the modern day equivalent for mothers learning to cook for their children. I have one of her books and found it useful in the early weaning stages and I have several friends who had never cooked a meal until they bought her book. She has made many modern mothers aware of nutrition and the importance of engaging a child’s interest in good food. I have seen her on tv discussing health and nutrition several times and there is even a link to her site on the website of the ‘gut specialist’ I want to get an appointment with.

She has started to work on gluten free recipes and there is a good selection on her website. However, I have not yet found anything that is particularly suitable or interesting for a dairy free child/mother. So I am going to attempt to be a Julie Powell and blog about my attempts to create fabulous Annabel Karmel-type recipes, but with a dairy free twist. Wish me luck.

Eating out… 1

Yesterday before we went to see the Paediatrician, we went out for lunch. Last hurrah of the Easter holidays. We were meeting a dear family friend who lives in North London and is soon moving to Australia. I used to love to eat in restaurants, Sophia my daughter loves it too and I hate for her to miss out, so every so often I make myself do it. It is always a bit of effort because of the lack of catering for a ‘free from’ child, or adult come to think of it. He gets bored very quickly and I feel slightly embarrassed ‘bringing lunch’ to a restaurant.

The night before, I had a think about where to meet. Where might offer at least some choice? We recently had a lunch in Wagamama’s, well I did. Zac had his usual packed lunch of marmite sandwiches made with gluten free, wheat free bread with a dairy free spread. We also took some ‘free from’ breadsticks, crisps and his much loved Alpro soya yoghurts. As the waiter guy was clearing our table he noticed all of Zac’s lunch leftovers and asked what his allergies/intolerances where. I explained and he said they could have catered for him.

He whizzed over and brought over a very detailed ‘alternative’ menu with all of the ingredients listed and carefully labelled as ‘dairy free, wheat free, gluten free, nut free, soya free’. I was impressed. He said they would make anything to order if we just clearly told him what he can’t have but would like. I was very impressed. Just a shame we hadn’t found that out before lunch. So even in restaurants that can do it and are happy to do it, they just don’t advertise it. It still seems if you don’t ask you don’t get. So my advice here is – just ask. You never know, many places are ‘closed to it’ – but when you find just one place that is going to cater to your needs it feels like a mini victory and you just want to tell everyone. So well done Wagamamas. You just need to advertise it!!!!

However, yesterday we just weren’t in a Wagamama’s mood. I remembered there is a TGI Friday’s just off the motorway that was easy for us all to get to and I remember last time we visited, the children’s menu was good, so it would suit my daughter and nephew at least.

I checked out their menu online and found a whole section for children and adults with gluten free, wheat free, dairy foods listed. Very good.  It was very simple and no real effort on their part. Burgers without the buns, salads without the creamy dressings, uncoated chicken strips, ‘naked’ nachos. Only thing lacking was a dairy free dessert. Shame really, as they are the easiest of all – a fruit ice lolly, coconut milk sorbet. Never mind. Keep trying TGI Friday’s. At least you are making an effort. We will be back – and I will be telling people!!

So two food chains that are making the effort with actually very little effort. It is not like they are stocking any different food. Just thinking about their customers’ requirements and making sure that no-one needs to bring a packed lunch to lunch!

I think we are a long way off finding a wheat free, gluten free, dairy free pasta dish on any menu and a ‘safe’ chocolate brownie served with ‘special’ ice cream is just a dream. But TGI Friday’s look like they are on the right track and who knows they may be bold enough to make the next step and actually buy in some ‘special ingredients’. I will write to them and suggest it. Watch this space!

I have always half expected McDonald’s to get in on the action. A Happy Meal with ‘free from’ fish fingers can’t be so far off can it? Americans are much more accustomed serving people with food intolerances and just being more flexible altogether – hold the mayo etc!  I guess that is why TGI’s have already made a start.

When I started this blog I did spend some time looking for websites with recipes, books, places to buy ingredients and ready-made ‘free from’ foods. Most of the sites that came up were in the USA. They are clearly much more aware of these conditions or perhaps it is partially down to ‘trend’. So many anorexic looking celebs claim to be dairy and wheat intolerant. Some may be genuine ‘intolerants’ but I imagine that many have just moved over for weight control and have discovered the health benefits – lower cholesterol, lower carbs, lower fat. It doesn’t really matter because at least they have raised awareness to the fact that many people by choice or through illness have to live a ‘free from’ life.

So come on UK, we have some catching up to.

The latest diagnosis… Reply

Monday 16th April

As I suspected…

We saw the paediatrician today. I told him how well Zac has been since he has been truly 100% ‘free from’. He was pleased and said that we should remain free from for several more years!! One year at the very least. He was happy to discharge us for now, or would see us again in 12 months to talk about possible challenges. He felt that Zac’s best chance of growing out of it all was to stay away from potential aggravation for years. I guess that makes sense. He had an upset stomach for more than 2 of his 3 years. I guess there was very little stuff left in his gut to deal with anything. It makes sense that his gut needs to be left alone to regrow the cultures, bacteria or whatever.

So, as we are going to be living ‘free from’ for another year at the very least, I feel even more compelled to push on with this blog and work out new coping strategies and menus and share them with everyone else.

When you first hear the recommendation to remain ‘free from’ you feel irritated because eating out will remain difficult, and so will eating in! Am I doomed to carry a lunch bag wherever we go for years to come? However, is it such a bad thing? Do I really want him to be able to eat ‘junk’?

Being ‘free from’ keeps him away from processed foods. Being ‘free from’ means his diet is regularly assessed by a dietician and is perfectly balanced. It is low in cholesterol, fat and bad carbs. It is high in vitamins, good protein and ‘quality carbs and grains’, e.g. buckwheat and quinoa, the things the ‘telly doctors’ tell us all we should try.

Why am I so keen for my baby to be able to eat sloppy, high GI, white pasta smothered in greasy processed salty ham and bacon and melted cheese?  It may taste great but perhaps he is not really missing out.

Not being a cheese addict could save him from obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol and gall stones. So why am I sad? Rather than wishing Zac could eat that filth, shouldn’t I be glad he can’t? In fact, my sadness is that the alternative, healthier options are not more widely  available. Because the more I think about it, the more I would happily keep him on this diet and move the rest of the world to his way of eating and not the other way around. So that is the new plan. Not try and ‘fix’ him so he can eat cheeseburgers and sausages with no ill effect, but make it possible for him and the rest of us to live an easy ‘free from’ life. So here we go…

How did we get here? Reply

I am the mother of two children, Sophia and Zac. Sophia is 5 and Zac is 3. From around the time of weaning it was clear that neither could stomach too much dairy – both were violently sick the first few times I took them off formula and introduced full fat cows milk to their diet. That was an easy fix. Keep them on ‘growing up’ milk for as long as possible and then switch to soya milk after the age of one. Easy. Or so I thought.

With Zac it was a little more tricky than just swapping out the cows milk for soya in the mornings. Poor little Zac contracted swine flu around the time of his first birthday. He was very ill and had an extremely upset tummy for over two weeks. Once he started to feel better, he got his appetite back and started off with his yoghurts and breakfast cereal.  That first evening his little tummy blew up like a balloon and an hour after going to bed he was very sick. He was sick all night long but during the course of the next day bounced back and seemed hungry again. That evening the pattern was repeated. At one point I thought the buttons on his little pyjama jacket would fly off like something in a cartoon. He was sick all night and once the vomiting stopped his little tummy had gone back to normal. I worked out the culprit for myself.

The next day I made an appointment with my GP who agreed it was likely. He told me that after a prolonged stomach upset much of the natural defences and enzymes will have been flushed out with everything else. So he suggested we remove all dairy from Zac’s diet for a few months and see how he got on……..

That was December 2009. Since then we have been on quite a journey. Since then he has also suffered with very unpleasant reactions to many foods and ingredients .  And when he is not made ill by food, he is simply ‘intolerant’ or ‘intolerable’ (I can’t decide!!) and just won’t eat what I put in front of him!

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