Food Allergies & Starting School
We are now in the last few days of the school summer holidays in the Highlands and I have to admit I feel a little sad that it's almost over. At the same time I am feeling waves of panic and slightly overwhelmed at the thought of not only having both boys being in school but the huge expectations I have put on myself to earn some more money now that I have more time on my hands.
I am really pleased that I made the decision to take the whole of the summer off to spend time with the boys. I am not saying it's all been delightful (the youngest went through a prolific swearing phase, while his big brother had some terrifying bike crashes) but all in all it has been blissful. Especially with the gorgeous weather resulting in the kids having spent the majority of the time outdoors.
One lovely thing about the summer is having had the time to make sure the boys eat well. All the rushing around and packed lunches during term time tends to leave me worrying whether the boys are eating well enough - especially with Bax having so many food allergies.
Our youngest son has been allergic to many different foods since he was a baby. These days it is mainly dairy and eggs but at one point there were so many things he couldn't have that I was at my wits end.
As a baby he was totally covered in eczema and it was so distressing to see him scratching to the point he bled, unable to sleep because of the itchiness and I tried everything to try to help him. I cut so much out of my diet, continued to breastfeed despite everyone suggesting I put him on formula and I felt so helpless. It was a terrible time, I walked (sobbing) out of a lot of doctors appointments, but thankfully after a lot of research and finally finding a nutritionist and dermatologist that helped me make sense of it (and also hair analysis testing) we managed to get it under control.
I have learnt so much about diet, the healing power of foods and products that we have integrated into our daily diets. I am very thankful for the experience as we are all healthier, happier and the kids now happily eat a huge variety of foods. I am also a much better cook as a result of adapting our diet to ensure it is inclusive, considerate and supportive of Bax's needs.
Bax still doesn't sleep well as a result of years of broken sleep due to the itching but other than that things are great now. We tried tonnes of different creams and oils and found some amazing products and support - Bria Organics and ScratchSleeves in particular were life-changing! I am always more than happy to share everything I have discovered with those going through similar experiences with their children so please feel free to get in touch!
Baxter is SO ready to start school next week and that makes it all a little easier. He's a wild one but I think he will do very well at our lovely little school.
My only real concern (other than he takes his potty mouth into the classroom!) is how well the school will cope with managing his allergies. The nursery did an amazing job and were just brilliant however, I had a particularly awful experience with a nursery where we used to live. They totally excluded him at snack time and treated my concerns with what I can only describe as contempt.
Packed lunches are really the only way forward for school, which is fine by me. I do need to ensure the teachers completely understand his allergies and I am on the look out for interesting and healthy lunch ideas that don't make Baxter feel 'different' (and without having to resort to the range of free-from snacks that tend to be stupidly high in sugar).
Over the years I have adapted recipes, learnt about egg and dairy replacements and tried to introduce lots of different foods into our family diet. Thankfully, Baxter can have gluten, I find trying to cut out gluten, especially in baking, very difficult but all of my recipes have a gluten-free option. My focus is on no dairy, no eggs and as little sugar as possible.
Getting calcium into the diet is high up on the list too. Omega 3 is a natural anti-inflammatory, while fats such as sunflower oil and those high in Omega 6 are just no good for eczema sufferers because of their flammatory properties, especially when heated to high temperatures. Finding this useful piece of information then led me to discover the difference between an anti-inflammatory diet and an immunology diet. We found that although anti-inflammatory diets are recommended for eczema sufferers the immunology diet works best for Bax. Wow, it's all so complicated!
All processed food is off limits for the same reasons and we tend to stick to meats such as chicken, venison and lamb over beef and pork. We make pizzas from scratch using vegan cheese for Baxter and have nailed making vegan pancakes, muffins, cakes & scones. Using sugar or any alternatives is kept to a minimum and I like to use coconut sugar, good-quality maple syrup or date syrup over the likes of stevia, agave etc.
There are some amazing cook books out there and I love using Deliciously Ella, Pippa Kendrick and I do my own take on a lot of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes. Neal's Yard Healing Foods books are hugely helpful as are the Phaidon series - the Italian; Silver Spoon, French; I can Cook and Spanish; The Cook Book. .
The rise in Veganism over the past year has been great. It's taking a bit longer to have an impact in the Highlands on what is available in cafes and restaurants (especially for kids) but it's made it so much easier to find things that Baxter can eat when we are out and about (I have only very recently become comfortable enough to go out without a full selection of eats for him) Kids parties and venues are still difficult. However, thank goodness we are past the playgroup stage, which was always a nightmare (not just the array of junk but why did everything always have to be cheesy and/or orange FFS!)
So, as I sit here at home on a rainy day, kids watching netflix, lego EVERYWHERE! I am starting to write down recipes. Maybe I will manage to get a book of recipes out for kids with allergies in the Autumn. Maybe recipes you can make WITH the kids (eg. they will be super easy!) By Autumn I should have nailed the bespoke, packed lunches for two routine.
But for now here is the recipe for Baxter's favourite ginger cookies. Ten minutes to bake, 5ish minutes to prep and it takes about 1 minute for the whole batch to be devoured! EASY PEASY!
Baxter's Ginger Cookies
Pre-heat oven to 180degrees celsius
- 150g plain flour
- 1 tbsp Ground Flaxseed
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 75g coconut sugar
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp cashew milk (or other dairy milk alternative)
- 2 tbsp porridge oats
Place the flaxseed in a small bowl with the baking powder and add three tablespoons on water. Leave to soak for five to ten minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients
Heat the coconut oil in a pan until liquid form
Sift the flour, sugar, ginger into a mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil and the flaxseed mixture and stir with a metal spoon. Add the cashew milk and continue to mix. Add the porridge oats and stir (sometimes we add Moo Free chocolate drops to mix it up a bit).
Take a baking tray and cover with baking paper (spray lightly with coconut oil to help the paper stick to the sheet)
Using a desert spoon scoop some of the mixture and taking the mixture in your hands roll into a ball. Place on the baking sheet and press down to create a round cookie shape about 1cm high. Repeat - you should be able to make about 12 cookies.
Place in middle of oven for 10 minutes and they should start to expand a little and turn a golden brown. Depending on oven you can take them out or leave them for a couple minutes more. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.
Delicious warm, crunchier cold.