Having dealt with food allergies for the last 6 years and also having been gluten free for about a year, I learned that getting convenience foods was no longer an option, unless you know where to look.
I don’t know what people with food allergies did a decade or more before the food allergy labeling laws came into effect and the public became more aware of food allergies and the quality of our foods. Luckily, I didn’t live with any food allergies as a child growing up and only developed them as an adult. Unfortunately, though, both of my kids have multiple food allergies that eliminated the basic childhood staples of Mac N Cheese and Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for lunch, the quick granola bar as an on-the-go snack and chocolate chip cookies for Christmas.
It was frustrating at first. I felt like a freak. Once I went gluten free, it got even harder. No more pizza? No more pasta? Are you kidding me?
But once you see the wide range of products out there now that are designed specifically with food allergic folks in mind, it makes being different a little more exciting. It still sucks to have food allergies, of course, but finding different and convenient ways to still enjoy the foods you always loved (gluten free birthday cake!) without putting your health at risk is a bit of an adventure.
Seriously, every single one of these is in my kitchen right now. And they are all peanut, tree nut, soy, egg, milk, gluten, wheat, fish and shellfish free.
SunButter Peanut Butter Substitute - I discovered SunButter purely by accident. I’d heard about a soy nut butter as a peanut butter substitute, so I checked out the peanut butter section at our local grocery store. I didn’t see any soy nut butter, but I did find Sunbutter, a sunflower seed spread that was all natural and also gluten free. I took it home, we tried it immediately, and now we’re totally hooked. It’s healthy, because eating seeds is incredibly healthy (sunflower seeds pack a lot of Vitamin E). You can use it to make Sunbutter & Jelly sandwiches or as a direct substitution for peanut butter in any baking recipe. It’s so good!
Enjoy Life Snack Bars - Granola bars were a thing of the past for our family. They either contain nuts and peanuts, may contain nuts and peanuts, or, if they are not nutty at all, they most certainly contain milk. Boo! Then I found out about Enjoy Life, a company that makes all kinds of goodies like granola, snack bars, cookies, and chocolate chips, completely free of the top 8 allergens…and a few others too! Also, it’s not just wheat free, it’s also gluten free for the gluten intolerant among us. And they taste good. My favorite is the Sunbutter Crunch, but I also like the Caramel Apple (I usually don’t like caramel, but these are good), and my kids go nuts for the chocolate ones.
Quinoa Pasta - When I was chronically ill, in and out of the emergency room, and having allergic reactions to my own anxiety, the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Numerous doctors, including my general doctor and allergist, were all stumped. So I saw a naturopathic doctor who told me to go off gluten. It worked. But the diet was hard to stick to, because I missed my breads and pastas. I’ve yet to find a decent gluten free bread, but I did find an amazing pasta that is gluten free. Forget the rice based pastas. Those are no good, in my opinion. They taste gritty. Plus, if I want rice, I’ll just eat rice. Quinoa mixes things up a little bit. They are very delicious, contain a bit of corn as well, and work great in all kinds of dishes, including spaghetti! Yum!
Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips – I eat these when I just need some chocolate to be perfectly honest with you, but I love getting these to add to vegan cookies. They are free of all the top 8 allergens, including milk, so it’s safe for our milk allergic 4-year-old. It’s nice to be able to enjoy chocolate that is free of milk and soy, and is truly vegan unlike many chocolate chip and carob chip brands I’ve seen claiming to be vegan when they may contain traces of milk in them. Ahem…
Flax USA Flax Milk – As I said before, our 4-year-old is allergic to milk. Anything dairy, he can’t eat. We drank soy milk for awhile, but most of them didn’t taste very good, and those that did gave the kids the runs. When we did find a good one, I had to limit them on how much they could have. After awhile, the soy milk we bought was no longer safe as it “May contain Almonds”. Bummer. We tried rice milk, which our son seemed to like, but I hated the lack of nutritional value it carried with it. Plus, I found it gritty. Hemp milk was gross. Almond milk was out because we’re allergic to almonds. We were a little stuck when it came to milk alternatives, until Flax USA started making Flax Milk and selling it in Walmart of all places! SCORE! Flax Milk is loaded with nutritional value containing a natural 1,000 mg of omega 3′s per serving, just like what you would get from a dose of flax seed oil supplements. It also tastes really good, so we definitely found ourselves a winner in Flax Milk. Did I mention that it’s not only dairy free but also peanut, tree nut, soy and gluten free too? Seriously! Like I said before – SCORE!
The above food allergy friendly, gluten free, vegan products are in no particular order. They are merely the items I keep on hand on a regular basis. I love them because they are safe, delicious, nutritious and convenient. It’s in one of the company’s names: Enjoy Life. The food allergic can now enjoy life just as much as the non-food allergic and enjoy the convenient treats denied for so long.
Question: What is your favorite food allergy friendly, vegan, and/or gluten free food item that you just can’t live without?
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