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Allergies, kids, food and siblings - the mixed food needs and demands of a big, busy family

My son Alex's allergies (milk, eggs, nuts, kiwi, shellfish, cherries, nectarines) have driven much of the behaviour of our household for almost the last 13 years, and they have certainly shaped our supermarket shopping bill.

Now we find ourselves in a house with four children; one child seemingly allergic to everything except bread and steak, one a vegetarian, one who only wants to eat tuna and nothing spicy, and the last one who just seems to copy the most annoying trait of the day that the others are displaying. On top of that, my wife and I are both vegetarian. This means that not only is food shopping incredibly expensive, but it also takes military planning.

One thing we had to cope with however was not being able to eat out as a family, or get a take away. This meant that a big part of lives (where we used to eat out in pre-kids time) was put on hold, and all the children sort of 'suffered' along with Alex's enforced embargo on anything that could remotely be contaminated with one of his allergens. Thankfully the local fish and chip shop provided some relief as they don't use peanut oil or egg batter (unlike many in London) and at least allowed that traditional treat for tea, or as an emergency meal at the end of a long motorway drive home.

Lately we have tried to take the other kids out when Alex has a stay-over at a friends house (dealing with this is an entirely different story!) and make just that extra bit of effort so they don't feel like social pariahs at school. It's still a tricky balance though, and as Alex gets older and wants to go out more (and eat of course) I know it's going to be a real challenge for him to stay safe. Things are at least improving a bit, certainly the allergen lists in chains are getting better and recently "a well know pizza place" was able to safely feed a boy who can't eat pizza! It does remain a huge worry though, and continues to involve significant discussions with staff about cross contamination and "what might happen" if they get this wrong...

2 Replies

Fully agree with what you are saying about trying to eat out with food allergies it takes an awful lot of planning. I am allergic to pork, and react to bananas, kiwi,and pineapple. trying to explain to someone about the hidden ingredients in food and medication is my biggest problem and something I had to find out about myself as Drs are not aware of the problem. One of the biggest hidden allergens for me is gelatin, used in lots of products and especially capsules, gelatin is a by product form the meat industry and since mad cow disease pork is used and there are an awful lot of people who don't know this. I don't drink alcohol any more as gelatin is used to clear wine and in some cases it can be used in the production of beer.

We did manage to go to my dads birthday party at an hotel and they catered for not only me and my problems but my nephew with his nut allergy and my niece with her dairy allergy so it can be done with planning and a good chef.

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Thanks for the reply, wow, avoiding gelatin is so difficult, you are right it's in so many things (3 of my house are vegetarian so we always check!) and kiwi is one of Alex's worst allergens and is always popping up in fruit salads. Great to hear you all got to go out though, attending anywhere that is mass catering is that combination of stress and liberation in finally eating out socially.